'High Holiday' on 4-20 associated with increase in fatal vehicle crashes

'High Holiday' on 4-20 associated with increase in fatal vehicle crashes

USA traffic fatalities rise dramatically on April 20, the day pot smokers celebrate.

The investigators chose 1992 as their starting point because, a year before, High Times magazine published an article that widely popularized the notion of April 20 as a day to celebrate marijuana use, Staples said. Nine states and the nation's capital have legalized recreational marijuana, meanwhile, including six where the plant can be purchased from retail dispensaries.

Jolene Forman, an attorney with Drug Policy Alliance, a NY nonprofit working to reduce the harms of both drug use and prohibition, said factors other than 4/20 celebrations might contribute to the increase in fatal crash rates.

"Assuming fewer than 10 per cent of Americans drive while high on April 20, our results suggest that drug use at 4/20 celebrations more than doubles the risk of a fatal crash", said fellow researcher, University of Toronto professor Dr. Donald Redelmeier.

'Policy makers may wish to consider these risks when liberalizing marijuana laws, paying particular attention to regulatory and enforcement strategies to curtail drugged driving, ' said lead author Dr. John Staples at the University of British Columbia.

The researchers used a quarter-century's worth of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System to compile the total number of fatal auto crashes that occurred between 4:20pm and midnight each year on April 20. "General society should know don't drive high", Staples included. Since ideally festivities start around 4:20PM, the research team compared crashes between 4:20 PM and midnight on April 20th to that same window of time on regular days in April.


The authors identified 1.3 million people, involved in 882,483 crashes in the 25 year period, which resulted in 978,328 fatalities. They found that there were an average of 7.1 crashes per hour on 4/20, compared to 6.4 crashes per hour on a more typical April day. The authors found that the risk of a fatal crash was 12% higher on April 20.

The impact of marijuana's psychoactive effects on drivers is of particular concern given that six US states now permit marijuana to be sold for recreational use to customers at least 21 years old.

The highest risk was seen in New York, Texas, and Georgia, while in Minnesota the risk actually fell on 420. Data show that 15 percent of DUI arrests in Colorado previous year involved marijuana, and a 2016 survey found about half of users in the state think driving under the influence of pot is safe. Or have a designated driver. One reason is that we don't have flawless data on drug-related crashes, considering that, unlike alcohol, not all municipalities are required to screen people for drugs after vehicle crashes. Organizers of 4/20 festivals should promote safe-driving measures, she said by email.

The 2017 Canadian Cannabis Survey found that only half of the pot users thought that cannabis use impacted driving. We thought this was a ideal natural experiment to evaluate the influence that cannabis intoxication has on the risk of motor vehicle crash. And while some states have established 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood as the standard for driving under the influence, "new research shows that even substantially impaired marijuana users would not be caught under this standard if they consumed pot in edible form".

Marijuana is legal for medical use in most USA states and in Canada; recreational use has been legalized in nine states plus Washington, D.C. and is expected to become legal in Canada in July.

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