Marijuana Legalization Linked to Reduction In Booze-Related Deaths of Pedestrians
According to data, around 1 in every 7 pedestrian deaths is caused by a drunk driver.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that some 32 people are killed due to drunk driving everyday. This equates to one death every 45 minutes, a senseless and completely unnecessary preventable death. The fact that alcohol consumption greatly impairs drivers has long been known, yet people continue to do it. Booze alters one’s judgment, severely impacts one’s ability to concentrate, affects coordination and vision – all of which contribute to impaired driving which can kill pedestrians.
However, with cannabis legalization, more people are consuming pot as a substitute to alcohol. And that has helped to reduce pedestrian deaths caused by impaired driving.
A new study conducted by two researchers at the Florida Polytechnic University analyzed the association between cannabis legalization and pedestrian deaths from 1985 to 2019. The study, which was published in the International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences Research journal, found that both recreational and medical cannabis legalization were associated with reductions in pedestrian fatalities, including those that were linked to alcohol.
“As of 2019, we find that liberalization has been associated with lower pedestrian fatalities, not higher. Further, the pattern is consistent with the alcohol substitution hypothesis. Specifically, the induced decline in alcohol related fatalities following liberalization is large enough to more than compensate for any additional fatalities due to marijuana consumption,” concluded the researchers.
But access to legal marijuana and the reduction of traffic fatalities is not a new association by any means. Studies as far back as 2011 have found the same results. A November 2011 study by researchers at the University of Colorado Denver found that medical marijuana laws have been linked to a 9% decrease in traffic fatalities, as well as a 5% drop in beer sales. For the study, they analyzed data from several sources such as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
“Our research suggests that the legalization of medical marijuana reduces traffic fatalities through reducing alcohol consumption by young adults,” explains Daniel Rees, a University of Colorado Denver professor of economics. This is the first study to ever analyze any link between medical marijuana laws and traffic fatalities.
“We were astounded by how little is known about the effects of legalizing medical marijuana,” says Rees. “We looked into traffic fatalities because there is good data, and the data allow us to test whether alcohol was a factor.”
According to co-author D. Mark Anderson, these findings are important when one considers it from the lawmaking perspective. “Traffic fatalities are an important outcome from a policy perspective because they represent the leading cause of death among Americans aged five to 34,” he says.
Meanwhile, another study in 2013 yielded similar results. Researchers from the Montana State University, University of Colorado, and the University of Oregon examined data on traffic deaths and alcohol consumption taken from 1990 through 2010.
“Using individual-level data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)…, we find that MMLs (medical marijuana laws) are associated with decreases in the probability of an individual having consumed alcohol in the past month, binge drinking, and the number of drinks consumed,” they said.
In addition, the researchers acknowledge that the reduction in alcohol consumption is probably responsible for the decrease in alcohol-related traffic deaths.
“Using data from FARS (federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System) for the period 1990-2010, we find that traffic fatalities fall by 8-11 percent during the first full year after legalization,” they wrote. “Why does legalizing medical marijuana reduce traffic fatalities? Alcohol consumption appears to play a key role. The legalization of medical marijuana is associated with a 7.2 percent decrease in traffic fatalities in which there was no reported alcohol involvement, but this estimate is not statistically significant at conventional levels. In comparison, the legalization of medical marijuana is associated with a 13.2 percent decrease in fatalities in which at least one driver involved had a positive BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level,” they added.
“The negative relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana and traffic fatalities involving alcohol lends support to the hypothesis that marijuana and alcohol are substitutes,” they concluded.
Cannabis Is A Better Alternative To Alcohol
Improved access to legal marijuana laws, whether medical or recreational, is reason enough for more people to give up alcohol and use pot instead. It’s bad enough that people on the road drunk driving can kill thousands, but it also harms anyone who consumes it especially with chronic use or binge drinking.
More people are seeing the benefits of consuming marijuana instead. It can not only help reduce alcohol intake, but it can greatly eliminate the dependency on it and improve families and societies as a whole. Whereas, alcohol was notorious for tearing families apart and breaking up relationships – cannabis is a better substitute instead. And when it comes to driving, always drive sober – it is both dangerous and illegal to drive under the influence, no matter what the substance is. (Full Story)