An examination of relationships between cannabis legalization and fatal motor vehicle and pedestrian-involved crashes

Traffic Inj Prev. 2020;21(8):521-526. doi: 10.1080/15389588.2020.1810246. Epub 2020 Aug 28.


Objective: While attention has been given to how legalization of recreational cannabis affects traffic crash rates, there was been limited research on how cannabis affects pedestrians involved in traffic crashes. This study examined the association between cannabis legalization (medical, recreational use, and recreational sales) and fatal motor vehicle crash rates (both pedestrian-involved and total fatal crashes).

Methods: We used crash data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) to calculate monthly rates of fatal motor vehicle crashes and fatal pedestrian-involved crashes per 100,000 people from 1991 to 2018. Changes in monthly crash rates in three states that had legalized cannabis (Colorado, Washington, and Oregon) were compared to matched control states using segmented regression with autoregressive terms.

Results: We found no significant differences in pedestrian-involved fatal motor vehicle crashes between legalized cannabis states and control states following medical or recreational cannabis legalization. Washington and Oregon saw immediate decreases in all fatal crashes (-4.15 and -6.60) following medical cannabis legalization. Colorado showed an increase in trend for all fatal crashes after recreational cannabis legalization and the beginning of sales (0.15 and 0.18 monthly fatal crashes per 100,000 people).

Conclusions: Overall findings do not suggest an elevated risk of total or pedestrian-involved fatal motor vehicle crashes associated with cannabis legalization.

Keywords: Crash; FARS; ITS; drugs; fatality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / mortality*
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cannabis*
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Legislation, Drug*
  • Pedestrians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Washington / epidemiology