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As marijuana-related traffic fatalities rise, study shows concern remains tempered

(AP Photo/Steve Helber/FILE)
(AP Photo/Steve Helber/FILE)
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A traffic safety report released Tuesday finds cannabis has played an increasing role in traffic fatalities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AAA Foundation had already found that 95% of people believe driving over the legal blood alcohol concentration to be very or extremely dangerous, but only 69% see the same level of danger for driving within an hour of consuming marijuana.

“Our main concern continues to be the inherent traffic safety risk that comes with the legalization of marijuana. And that’s whether it’s medicinal or for recreational," said Ragina Ali, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Now, a handful of local and national agencies, including the Governors Highway Safety Association and the National Alliance to Stop Impaired Driving, have teamed up to produce a new report that 33% of drivers involved in fatal crashes had THC in their system – up from 21% before the pandemic.

Overall, crashes leading to injury rose by 6% after legalization but fell slightly once marijuana sales began in shops. Fatal crash rates rose by around 2% after cannabis became legal and by the same amount again when shops started selling the drug.

Some people believe cannabis use actually improves their driving, according to a report.

As more states legalize cannabis, more Americans are using it, yet there’s a disconnect between people’s views on cannabis use and safe driving.

Legalizing cannabis in the United States is linked to an increase in car crashes and traffic-related deaths. Specifically, researchers say the number of fatal crashes jumped by 4% in five states that permit recreational marijuana.

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“Our AAA research will show that finally, people are beginning to understand the difficulties and the complexities and the dangers more importantly of drinking impaired by alcohol. About 95% recognize that as being extremely dangerous. However when it comes to marijuana use, only about 70% view it as extremely dangerous, that’s concerning," Ali said.

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