It appears cannabis legalization has made American roads safer for everyone. A new study recently pointed out that truck driving in legalized states is safer than ever.
The study observed trends in legalized states and noticed that the positives of legalization far outweigh the negatives. The adult-use cannabis market, which many assumed would be the cause of accidents, has done the opposite. There are reduced numbers of traffic accidents and risks on U.S state and federal roads. This new study specifically looks into the connection between recreational cannabis legalization and truck driving in legal states.
Marijuana Legalization and Truck Safety
Researchers from the University of Arkansas, in conjunction with Iowa State University, conducted this study to investigate whether or not cannabis legislation has had adverse effects on the United States’ multi-billion truck driving industry. The research, which was dubbed ” Does the pineapple express damage more pineapples?” analyzed statistical data from 2005 to 2019.
The researchers sought to understand, using a state panel of heavy truck crash data and a difference-indifference estimation technique, the impact of cannabis use on heavy truck drivers. At the end of the study, the researchers concluded that there had been no increase in the average crash rate of heavy-duty trucks since cannabis got legalized in the various states considered.
Instead, the results showed that the legalization mostly gave drivers a sense of responsibility as heavy truck accidents were reduced by over 10% in the examined states. The researchers highlighted that six out of eight states showed a reduction, while the remaining two increased slightly from their average rate. The states with the lowest heavy-duty truck crash since their legislation was passed in 2018 and 2013, respectively, are Vermont and Washington.
In Vermont, there was a profound decrease in accidents by -21.5%, while Washington recorded -20.1%. Massachusetts and Colorado followed with a -18% and -18.3% decrease, respectively. The final two are Oregon and California, with a -3.8 and -3.1% reduction, respectively. The two states which showed the expected increases out of the eight examined are Maine and Nevada at 4.20% and 25.7%.
At this juncture, we must stress that the above information is merely a preprint and is yet to be subjected to further peer review. Once the study has undergone the peer review stage, it will be published.
Why the Reductions?
The researchers explained that they are yet to arrive at a primary reason causing the profound reduction in heavy-duty truck crashes. However, they offered a few hypotheses for why it is so.
They pointed out that because marijuana is typically enjoyed at home rather than in a bar or restaurant, truckers are likely unable to obtain or consume marijuana while working quickly.
It is also possible that former drinkers of alcohol converted to marijuana even though it is still illegal to drive while high; research indicates that this is much less likely to result in a fatal accident than driving while intoxicated by alcohol. Naturally, operating a motor vehicle while completely sober is the safest option.
The legalization of marijuana has resulted in a lot of developments for the transportation business as well. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration debuted its drug and alcohol registry in January 2020. Although a return-to-duty procedure is in place, it details all commercial drivers who have failed a substance abuse test.
The clearinghouse’s primary goal is to promote truck safety on the road by ensuring those truck drivers who break drug and alcohol laws can’t easily land another driving position without changing their previous conduct.
While the extent to which these goals have improved safety on the road for truckers and other drivers is still unclear, they have resulted in the removal of specific drivers. A total of 124,000 drivers were fired from their jobs as industrial truck drivers between January 2020 and April 2022 due to failed drug tests, and 31,000 have completed the return-to-duty process to go back on the road.
However, most breaches involve medicinal marijuana rather than narcotics like opiates, amphetamines, methamphetamine, or cocaine. Since January 2020, more than 74,000 truckers who tested positive for marijuana have already been banned from operating commercial trucks.
The comparison of Nevada to Vermont, which experienced the most significant decline of any state, enables the researchers to take a deeper look at the rise in accidents in Nevada.
They discovered that Nevada has more travelers unfamiliar with the state’s roads than Vermont, which has significantly less tourism. In Nevada, visitors are also more likely to consume marijuana outside the home, such as when they are in Las Vegas, which suggests that there is a higher chance that they will drive after consuming marijuana. On the other hand, Vermont has a denser population than Nevada but shorter stretches of road. Hence, drivers are inclined to go more carefully with a clear head.
In addition, some findings in this report are more or less opposite of other recent studies on the relationship between cannabis legalization and vehicle crashes in legal states. For instance, in 2021, researchers from Boston University revealed that heavy truck and vehicle accidents due to substance use have not decreased in the last decade. The Boston study found that cannabis-related crashes have more or less doubled.
Some other studies suggested that marijuana legislation may become the leading cause of road crashes In the coming years. Although, this doesn’t mean that the impacts would be fatal.
In the meantime, it is advisable to drive while sober and stick to the rules and regulations proffered by your state’s cannabis legislation.
Note that this study does not encourage cannabis use while driving or moments before driving. Researchers say cannabis can impair a person’s driving ability for as long as four hours after consumption. So, before getting behind the wheel after ingesting cannabis, be sure the effects have worn off. Take stock of how sharp your senses are before you move your truck. All in all, you must consider your safety and that of other road users.