• January 28, 2021

No, Safer Cars Don’t Make for Fewer Accidents and Marijuana is not Directly Linked to Fatalities

 No, Safer Cars Don’t Make for Fewer Accidents and Marijuana is not Directly Linked to Fatalities

Anti-marijuana group Smart Colorado claims that vehicle deaths are up, despite cars being “so much safer these days.”

Oh, Smart Colorado. It was a nice try, but this is unfortunately, FAKE NEWS!

First of all, after spiking higher for two straight years, traffic deaths in the United States pulled back slightly in 2017, according to a report released in February by the National Safety Council. The NSC estimates there were 40,100 motor vehicle deaths last year, which would be a drop of about 1 percent from the total of 40,327 in 2016.

Naturally, Smart Colorado attempts to connect its false statistic to marijuana legalization. Unfortunately, the correlation doesn’t work. Since legal marijuana proliferated, traffic fatalities have overall decreased across the United States.

There’s also the troubling assertion from Smart that there is some sort of correlation between safer vehicles and traffic accidents. This is also FAKE NEWS! The reason is because people are the problem. And statistics don’t yet suggest a direct correlation between marijuana use and dangerous driving. Those conversations through the Colorado Department of Transportation’s “Cannabis Conversation” are ongoing.

Believe it or not, safer cars have changed driving behaviors, not always for the better. The biggest hurdle is preventing drivers from over-relying on systems that aren’t intended to fully replace a human at the wheel.

Spotty seat-belt use, drinking and driving, and texting while driving remain top problems for highway safety, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More vehicle miles traveled also is a factor in fatal traffic accidents. Following the economic downturn and a drop in gas prices, drivers began to drive more, which contributed to a change in traffic statistics over the last few years.

Traffic-related deaths, including pedestrians and cyclists, are not falling as much as some would expect given the advancement in auto safety technologies, like automatic emergency brakes, and the increased use of seat belts. Those trends are not having a bigger impact due to a number of factors, including distracted driving and higher speed limits.

Nothing in the reports and studies from highway safety experts point to marijuana as a direct cause, though we will admit we should compile additional data on the subject. Law enforcement currently does not do a good job of keeping accident statistics as it relates to marijuana. In most cases, alcohol is found to be the cause of the crash, and then if marijuana is later found in a driver’s system, the report is amended to add marijuana. The data does not differentiate between whether the crash was caused by alcohol or marijuana.

New York City is often pointed to as an example of getting to the heart of the highway safety issue. The NSC estimates that traffic fatalities in New York fell 3 percent last year and have dropped 15 percent over the last two years. Safety advocates say the decline may be due to New York City’s push to eliminate traffic deaths by lowering speed limits, adding bike lanes and more pedestrian shelters.

If Smart Colorado truly cares about highway safety, then it should focus on smartphones, in-car infotainment systems and other distractions. In the meantime, the cannabis industry will continue its own corporate responsibility by educating consumers about the Cannabis Conversation and our own Explore Responsibly campaigns.

Peter Marcus

Peter Marcus served as the Senior Statehouse Reporter for the Colorado Springs Gazette where he co-launched ColoradoPolitics.com, covering politics, the governor’s office, the Colorado Legislature, Congress, and federal, state and local governments. He joined in November 2016 from The Durango Herald. The Washington Post twice named Marcus one of the top state-based political and legislative reporters in the nation. He also has won over a dozen awards from the Colorado Press Association. In prior positions, Marcus worked for the Colorado Statesman, a Denver-based political weekly, and The Denver Daily News, a former free daily newspaper in Denver, where he covered City Hall, politics, and had an entertainment column. Before that, Marcus worked for the Longmont Times-Call. An Ithaca College graduate, Marcus studied journalism and creative writing, before moving to Colorado from New York in 2004.

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