Deadly Mix: Fatal Auto Collisions Involving Marijuana and Alcohol Skyrocketing to Disturbing Levels

As the legalization of ‘marijuana aka cannabis’ saturates every corner of this society the green leafy substance has finally become the accepted choice of legal narcotic use in mainstream America, but a new study recently discovered how recreational cannabis use is causing a deadly impact on public road safety. New research conducted by the Boston Medical Center Team at Boston University, and the University of Victoria indicates that between 2000 and 2018, that fatal marijuana-related crash victims had a 50 percent higher chance of having alcohol in their systems, simultaneously, which means the percentage of vehicle collisions involving both marijuana and alcohol, have more than doubled.

Many advocates fought hard for the legalization of cannabis because they staunchly believed that if people were allowed to use the drug openly that it would eliminate the use of other substances, like alcohol, for example.

The Boston Medical Team disagrees.

Marijuana and Alcohol Combined

Timothy S. Naimi
Timothy S. Naimi

“There has been progress in reducing deaths from alcohol-impaired driving, but our study suggests that cannabis involvement might be undercutting these public health efforts,” said senior author Timothy Naimi. Naimi is an MD, MPH, and adjunct professor at Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health. A man with incomparable prestige, Naimi is also the director of the Canadian Institute of Substance Use Research.

At least 35 states including the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, 16 of those states allow adults to legally use the substance for recreational use as of April 2021. That particular number may continue to rise as more Americans are more tolerant of legalizing marijuana across the nation.

Cannabis and Alcohol-related Vehicle Fatality Deaths

Researchers analyzed 19 years of data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, a national database of fatal vehicle collisions on public roads, which revealed:

  • Nearly 40 percent of fatal vehicle deaths in the United States are alcohol-related, and 30 percent of deaths involve alcohol above the legal limit for driving.
  • The percentage of auto crash deaths related to cannabis use more than doubled from 9.0 percent in 2000 to 21.5 percent in 2018.
  • And the percentage of deaths involving cannabis and alcohol also more than doubled from 4.8 percent to 10.3 percent. Cannabis triggered a risk factor for alcohol co-involvement, even at levels below the legal limit.
  • The study further showed how cannabis-involved vehicle collisions are more likely to involve the deaths of passengers including individuals younger than 35 compared to fatal auto collisions unrelated to cannabis.

Drugged on Marijuana While Driving

Despite these astounding results, the authors of the important studies indicated that testing for marijuana intoxication still remains an inexact science thereby making it more difficult for officials to determine how long it’d been since drivers used marijuana prior to driving on the road and further, how much of a role the marijuana played in the fatal accident.

Fact-based studies published in the American Journal of Public Health show conclusive results that suggest as states have loosened cannabis policies, cannabis and alcohol have constantly been used together by drivers.

Although auto collision alcohol deaths have remained steady over the last two decades, the proportion of the deaths, when other substances are involved, particularly cannabis, increased exponentially. Surprisingly, scant attention has been given to the relationship between alcohol and cannabis use. At first, when states gradually legalized marijuana, advocates insisted most likely the use of weed would substitute for heavy alcohol consumption.

However, the Boston study suggests the opposite, that cannabis and alcohol are increasingly being used simultaneously when impaired drivers are on the road, and cannabis increases the chance of alcohol use in fatal vehicular crashes.

Marijuana and Alcohol driving is a growing problem. Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Image by Pexels from Pixabay


“Our testing methods for cannabis remain suboptimal and individuals can test positive for cannabis weeks after they have consumed it,” says lead author Marlene Lira, MPH, an epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center. “However, we can say that fatalities from crashes involving cannabis are more likely to have also involved alcohol, even if we don’t know the exact level of cannabis.”

In 2018, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began workgroups to mitigate the harms of drug-impaired driving during the overdose epidemic and cannabis legalization. NHTSA also commissioned the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study alcohol-impaired driving. The report included the recommendation to reduce the legal alcohol limit to 0.05 percent, among other interventions. This study underscores that now, more than ever, these efforts are still needed.

“The bottom line is that we have a lot of work to do to reduce deaths and harms from impaired driving from alcohol, cannabis, and other substances,” said Lira.

Marijuana and Car Accident Rates: All the Facts. Image by Herbal Hemp from Pixabay
drugs and car accidents. Image by Herbal Hemp from Pixabay

Newsblaze Reporter Clarence Walker Jr. can be reached at [email protected]

Clarence Walker

As an analyst and researcher for the PI industry and a business consultant, Clarence Walker is a veteran writer, crime reporter and investigative journalist. He began his writing career with New York-based True Crime Magazines in Houston Texas in 1983, publishing more than 300 feature stories. He wrote for the Houston Chronicle (This Week Neighborhood News and Op-Eds) including freelancing for Houston Forward Times.

Working as a paralegal for a reputable law firm, he wrote for National Law Journal, a publication devoted to legal issues and major court decisions. As a journalist writing for internet publishers, Walker’s work can be found at American, Gangster Inc., Drug War Chronicle, Drug War101 and Alternet.

His latest expansion is to News Break.

Six of Walker’s crime articles were re-published into a paperback series published by Pinnacle Books. One book titled: Crimes Of The Rich And Famous, edited by Rose Mandelsburg, garnered considerable favorable ratings. Gale Publisher also re-published a story into its paperback series that he wrote about the Mob: Is the Mafia Still a Force in America?

Meanwhile this dedicated journalist wrote criminal justice issues and crime pieces for John Walsh’s America’s Most Wanted Crime Magazine, a companion to Walsh blockbuster AMW show. If not working PI cases and providing business intelligence to business owners, Walker operates a writing service for clients, then serves as a crime historian guest for the Houston-based Channel 11TV show called the “Cold Case Murder Series” hosted by reporter Jeff McShan.

At NewsBlaze, Clarence Walker expands his writing abilities to include politics, human interest and world events.

Clarence Walker can be reached at: [email protected]