Wednesday, December 18, 2013

More prohibitionist propaganda busted - it seems legal cannabis reduces road deaths

Prohibitionists in the US are bending over backwards to show legalisation of cannabis in some US states is causing the sky to fall in, just as they always predicted. Recently an Australian prohibitionist triumphantly circulated this 'important' information on email lists:

Panic stations! Legalisation has started a rush of those dangerous stoned drivers! We told you so! (SAM, by the way, is the new soft-pedalling face of prohibition.)

Smelling a rat, I immediately asked: "Was there a corresponding increase in traffic accidents?"

No reply.

I later speculated on the lists that police, deprived of their 'easy money' busting potheads, might be doing more drug-driving tests, which would account for the increase.

Then a list member posted the following, supporting my speculations:

"...according Washington State’s Traffic Safety Commission “Target Zero” data for 2013, the fatality rate from incidents involving drunk and/or drug-affected drivers is actually the LOWEST that has been recorded in more than seven years.

"So far, the 2013 fatality rate is down 22% for alcohol-related road deaths, and down 30% for other-drug-related road deaths, compared to 2012.

"If more people really are driving whilst seriously impaired, why is there no spike in road fatalities?

"And yes Michael you are quite correct, police in Washington State have indeed conducted significantly more drug tests in 2013 than in previous years.

"That last piece of information comes from Bob Caulkins, the Media & Community Relations Officer for the Washington State Patrol:

"However, the number of tests being ordered has increased, on pace for 180 more than the prior year. It can also be true that cops are more likely to order a blood test in a pot case now. As Caulkins told Huffington Post, “We’re testing blood we didn’t test before.” So do we actually have more stoned drivers on the road or are cops now just better trained and incentivized to go after them?"

Then the post got even better:

"Could it be that greater access to marijuana equals less abuse of alcohol, leading to lower traffic deaths from both?

Let's see what Time magazine has to say on the subject:

"Comparing traffic deaths over time in states with and without medical marijuana law changes, the researchers found that fatal car wrecks dropped by 9% in states that legalized medical use — which was largely attributable to a decline in drunk driving. The researchers controlled for other factors like changes in driving laws and the number of miles driven that could affect the results.

Medical marijuana laws were not significantly linked with changes in daytime crash rates or those that didn’t involve alcohol. But the rate of fatal crashes in which a driver had consumed any alcohol dropped 12% after medical marijuana was legalized, and crashes involving high levels of alcohol consumption fell 14%.  Read more: Why Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Traffic Deaths | TIME.com >>>

Here’s the study that last article is referencing;
So what are the road fatality risks of various drugs on driving?

"It is certainly the case that stoned drivers are far better drivers than drunk drivers, but they are also far better than drivers using certain legal prescription medications. According to research published this year in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, drivers who tested positive for marijuana had an odds ratio of 1.81:1 of being in a fatal crash compared to a sober (1:1) driver. Those odds were 3.03:1 for narcotics like Vicodin, 3.57:1 for stimulants like Adderall, and 4.83:1 for depressants like Ativan, but each carries a warning on the bottle instructing users not to drive until they know how the medication affects them. None of those drugs carries any per se threshold in a blood test indicating automatic proof of impairment like cannabis and alcohol do. Alcohol comes in with an astounding 13.64:1 odds ratio for a fatal crash, so if some of those drivers are switching to the drug with the 1.81:1 risk, we should all be celebrating… >>>"

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