Friday, December 2, 2011

Medical Marijuana Decreases Alcohol Use And Auto Accidents

My posted comment to Carpe Diem blog, "More Pot, Less Beer, and Fewer Traffic Fatalities" by Mark Perry:
The decrease in traffic accidents and fatalities from legalizing marijuana may be only temporary. The decrease may not be from decrease in alcohol consumption, but from the change in social setting for medical marijuana versus alcohol. There could be a decrease in total driving and nighttime driving, which will lower the accident rates.

The authors found that the main beneficial effect on traffic fatalities was at night and weekends: "Likewise, we find that the estimated effects of MMLs [medical marijuana legalization] on fatalities at night and on weekends (when alcohol consumption rises) are larger, and are more precise, than the estimated effects of MMLs on fatalities during the day and on weekdays."

There are more driving accidents at night, more accidents among younger (more likely to go out to drink and socialize), inexperienced drivers, more accidents among tired drivers, e.g. later at night after being up all day (when drinkers return home after a night out), more accidents among risk-taking drivers, like those willing to risk a DUI/DWI after having a few drinks, and more accidents the more miles driven, even without the driver drinking alcohol. These added accident causes are in addition to any physical or reaction impairment due to excessive alcohol.

The legalization of marijuana will increase the social use of the drug and make it as socially acceptable as drinking. The partial legalizing for medical use may have the unintended effect of decreasing nighttime driving, which will not occur if there is full legalization and full social acceptance.

Full legalization will increase nighttime driving, increase the number of younger people driving to use or obtain it, etc., over the amount for medical marijuana, raising the additional driving accident causative factors to the same level as with alcohol.

As far as I know neither the CDC nor alcohol groups run a multivariable analysis to see which accident causative factors predominate as the leading cause of accidents while driving after a few drinks. They just assume it is alcohol if alcohol consumption is present in either driver.

It may very well be that alcohol impaired driving during the daylight, when the driver is well rested, in older, experienced drivers, in non-risk taking drivers (safe drivers) does not cause accidents.

CDC could do, or anti-alcohol groups like MADD could fund, a study that would show the additive effects of alcohol consumption on the other known accident risk factors.

In effect, not including as variables in the statistical studies these non-alcohol accident factors will enable the studies to show a continuing need for lower levels of alcohol consumption. However, including the additional factors might upset the well-funded vested interest groups and diminish alcohol's role as a major accident causer.

With full marijuana legalization and social acceptance, the driving accident rate might not be lower as the study shows for medical marijuana legalization.
If you are not regularly reading Mark Perry's blog Carpe Diem, you should.

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