Insurance group releases collision data for legal pot states – and it’s bad news

Insurance group releases collision data for legal pot states – and it’s bad news | Insurance Business

Insurance group releases collision data for legal pot states – and it’s bad news
An insurance study has connected the influx of car crash claims to recreational marijuana’s legalization.

The Highway Loss Data Institute, an established insurance research group that studies insurance data to observe emerging auto-safety trends, reported that Colorado, Washington, and Oregon’s collision claims have climbed 2.7% since legal recreational marijuana sales began. Legal recreational pot sales in Colorado commenced in January 2014, while Washington and Oregon followed suit.

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“We believe that the data is saying that crash risk has increased in these states and those crash risks are associated with the legalization of marijuana,” Matt Moore, senior vice president, Highway Loss Data Institute said in an article published in Flathead Beacon.

Mason Tvert, a marijuana legalization advocate and communications director with Marijuana Policy Project, challenged the study’s comparison of claims in rural states like Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana with Colorado, Oregon and Washington that have solid population centers - and how that affected the study’s results. 

“The study raises more questions than it provides answers, and it’s an area that would surely receive more study, and deservedly so,” Tvert said.

Researchers accounted for factors like the number of vehicles on the road in the study and control states, the drivers’ age and gender, weather, and employment, while neighboring states with the same claim variations were used in comparison.

Insurance industry groups have been keeping a close eye on claims since auto accidents across the country began to rise four years ago after more than a decade of steady decline - while insurance companies have identified numerous potential causes behind the spike, such as distracted driving via texting or cellphone use, road construction, and an improved economy that has led to more leisure driving, more miles driven, and marijuana legalization.

“It would appear, probably not to anyone’s surprise, that the use of marijuana contributes to crashes. It would be difficult to say that marijuana is a definitive factor, lacking a citation, in a significant number of crashes to say that what we’re seeing here is a trend,” Kenton Brine, president, Northwest Insurance Council, said.

The Northwest Insurance Council represents companies in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The Highway Loss Data Institute mentioned that its study examined claims from January 2012-October 2016.
“The problem here is that it’s a pretty new experience. This is the first study that has been able to isolate legal pot as one of the factors,” Carole Walker, Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, said.

Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association is an industry group that covers Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.

Eight states and Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana for adults.

Russ Rader, spokesman, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, adds that alcohol impairment remains of the biggest road concerns.

“While we have proven countermeasures, proven strategies for reducing alcohol impaired driving, there are a lot of unanswered questions about marijuana and driving,” Rader said.

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