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Marijuana increasingly linked to fatal car accidents

For a number of years, medical marijuana has been legal in the state of California. Since that time, there has been a growing discussion about making legal to consume pot recreationally, a conversation that has been fueled by legalization in two states. As public opinion shifts on this issue, many in Californians might be wondering if it would be wise for the state to follow along.

A recently released study from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health might contribute to the ongoing public discourse about marijuana legalization. According to the study, the number of fatal car accidents related to marijuana has tripled between 1999 and 2010.

Researchers compiled data from states that routinely track toxicology data after fatal accidents, including California. The data says that 4 percent of fatal car wrecks in 1999 were attributed to consuming pot and driving. By the time 2010 rolled around, that share leapt to 12 percent.

Although many people might most closely associate alcohol with intoxicated driving, using marijuana can have similar effects on a person's ability to drive safely. An official from the Governors Highway Safety Association noted that being high on marijuana adversely impacts judgment and the ability to focus, both of which are essential to driving. Not only is this activity dangerous, but it's also illegal in California.

As the discussion about legalizing recreational pot use in California moves forward, questions of safety should enter the picture. Regardless of whether or not the law changes, it's still a driver's responsibility to make sure he or she has the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

Source: HealthDay News, "Fatal Car Crashes Involving Pot Use Have Tripled in U.S., Study Finds," Feb. 5, 2014

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