SPOKANE, Wash. -- After the state of Washington legalized marijuana in 2012, many were worried there would be an increase fatal crashes.
Data from 2013 to 2014 shows the number of people involved in a fatal crash who tested positive for recent marijuana use did double. But, it is not even close to the leading cause of fatal crashes.
“The doubling is based on some small numbers, so although it is a trend that definitely increased, and I’m sure is attributable to I-502, at least in part you know it’s just a small subset of drivers,” said Staci Hoff, Research Director for Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
The Washington Traffic Safety Commission said in 2013, 592 drivers were involved in fatal crashes, but only 38 of those drivers tested positive for recent marijuana use.
In 2014, 619 drivers were involved in fatal crashes. Of those, 75 drivers had marijuana in their system.
So, in a year, the number of drivers with recent marijuana use involved in a fatal crash went from 38 to 75. However, many of those drivers had more than just marijuana in their system.
“Most of these drivers, these 75 drivers, also had alcohol or other drugs,” said Hoff.
Over the last five years, marijuana alone has only been found in 1.8% of fatal crashes.
“So, in our study, we looked at all five years of date, 2010 to 2014, and there were never 3,000 drivers involved in these fatal crashes during that time period. Only 56 of them had THC and only THC, nothing else,” said Hoff.
But, it is not to say that marijuana use is not a problem among drivers. WTSC said the scariest trend they are seeing is marijuana and alcohol use together.
“There’s still a lot of work to do to figure out the impact of marijuana as a substance alone, but what I can say is that the combo of alcohol and marijuana is a scary concept we are seeing, it’s where our largest concern lays right now,” said Hoff.
Although fatal crashes involving marijuana doubled from 2013 to 2014, the WTSC thinks this will be the new normal. They do not expect numbers to drop, but do not expect it to keep climbing either.