AAA: July 1st legalization of cannabis sparks worry of increase in fatal crashes

Marijuana has been decriminalized as of July 1st.
Marijuana has been decriminalized as of July 1st.(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 11:54 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) - In just two days, on July 1, Virginia will take its first step in the process of legalizing recreational cannabis for adults 21 and over, a change that raises serious concerns over traffic safety, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

AAA says it opposes the legalization of cannabis for recreational use because of its inherent traffic safety risks and because of the difficulties in writing legislation that protects the public and treats drivers fairly.

“AAA is deeply concerned about the negative traffic safety implications of the legalization of recreational cannabis in Virginia,” said Martha Mitchell Meade, Manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reviewed a full 10-years’ worth of data about the potential impact of marijuana on driving safety and the results suggested that legalization of recreational use of marijuana may increase the rate of THC-positive drivers involved in fatal crashes.”

AAA reports that in Washington State after the state legalized the drug, fatal crashes involving drivers who recently used cannabis doubled, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (2020). 

Crash rates and insurance claims also increased in Colorado, Nevada and Oregon after recreational legalization passed. Data from the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice shows the number of fatalities with cannabinoid‐only or cannabinoid‐in‐combination (with other drugs and alcohol) positive drivers increased 153%, from 55 in 2013 to 139 in 2017.

AAA urges drivers to refrain from driving impaired via any substance, including cannabis. “The safety of Virginia roads is the responsibility of every driver. Simply put, if you’ve used cannabis, don’t drive and if you plan to drive, don’t use cannabis,” Meade added.

AAA reminds motorists that under Virginia law, drivers and passengers are also, forbidden from “consuming marijuana or marijuana products while in a motor vehicle being driven upon a public highway.” Open containers, or those not in the originally sealed manufacturer’s container, in the passenger area of motor vehicles are also illegal.

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