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Marijuana holiday may account for increase in car crash deaths

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that an annual marijuana holiday on April 20 may be behind a yearly increase in car crash deaths. Though Pennsylvania has not legalized recreational marijuana use, drivers should know that the self-proclaimed holiday is celebrated across the nation and fatal car crash rates tend to increase around 4/20 in most, though not all, states.

The study analyzed fatal car crash data between the years 1992, when the 4/20 holiday began to be widely accepted, and 2016. Researchers compared fatality rates on 4/20 to the rate in the weeks before and after the study period, finding an overall 12 percent increase in fatalities during the holiday. This figure accounted for an additional 142 driver deaths. Though researchers could not directly link any of the accidents to marijuana use, they suspect some of the crashes were marijuana-related.

This increase in car accidents is to be expected as marijuana has been found to impair driving abilities, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. However, public awareness of the dangers of driving while smoking marijuana seems to be low. For example, a 2016 survey showed that half of the marijuana users in Colorado (a state that legalized the drug for recreational use back in 2012) believed that it was safe to drive while smoking it.

When marijuana contributes to a car accident, the victim can file a claim to be compensated for any losses he or she incurred, such as vehicle damage and physical injuries. The process can go a lot more smoothly, though, with lawyers since they can usually bring in accident investigators, drug experts and other third parties to strengthen the case. After gathering the police report and other important paperwork, an attorney could negotiate an informal settlement with the negligent driver's auto insurance company.

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