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Marijuana holiday linked to surge in deadly car accidents

Illinois lawmakers may be paying close attention to car accident and marijuana use statistics in states like Colorado and California that have legalized cannabis for recreational use. The opponents of more relaxed marijuana laws often voice concerns about impaired driving and surging traffic accident fatalities, and studies suggest that these arguments have at least some merit. Researchers at the University of British Columbia say that the annual April 20 marijuana ‘holiday” may have caused 142 traffic deaths between 1992 and 2016, yet more than half of the cannabis users polled in Colorado in 2016 did not believe that getting behind the wheel after smoking the drug posed a threat to other road users.

Prior studies found similar increases in impaired driving and fatalities on Super Bowl Sunday, New Year’s Eve and other holidays known for raucous celebrations and alcohol consumption, but the University of British Columbia was not able to conclusively link the April 20 deaths with marijuana use. Most of the accident data they reviewed lacked toxicology information, and the evidence linking THC levels with impairment is not as clear as it is with alcohol.

Colorado was one of the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and lawmakers there seem to be taking the issue of April 20 car accidents seriously. The Colorado Department of Transportation has launched an initiative with a ride-sharing company and marijuana trade group that encourages cannabis users to take public transportation or share a ride to get home if they go out to celebrate on April 20.

Impaired drivers can face decades behind bars when they cause deadly accidents, but that does not mean that the dependent family members of those killed are unable to pursue civil remedies. When negligent motorists are incarcerated for long periods or lose their lives in the accidents that their negligent behavior caused, experienced personal injury attorneys could sue their insurance companies or estates.