The Maryland legislature is currently hearing a bill that would make it a crime for drivers or passengers to use marijuana while in a moving vehicle. The initiative seems to come as the leading edge of a movement towards decriminalizing marijuana in the state. Studies are still in conflict as to whether legal marijuana use increases or decreases the number and severity of car accidents.
House Bill 350 Would Criminalize Marijuana Use in Cars
The proposed law is House Bill 350 and would make it a misdemeanor to smoke or use marijuana while in a car that is on a public roadway. The penalties for a violation would include a fine of up to $500.
This is not the first time such a bill has been proposed – the sponsor of House Bill 350, Geraldine Valentino-Smith, from District 23A, which centers on the city of Bowie, proposed the bill in 2017, but it failed to make it out of the state senate.
The timing of the bill comes as a sure sign that the state legislature is eyeing making recreational marijuana legal. House Bill 350 could preemptively tie up some crucial loopholes that a recreational marijuana law bill would create.
Does Marijuana Increase the Chance for a Car Accident?
For traffic safety and car accident law, recreational marijuana means more drivers could be on the road while high, which just begs the question: Will there be more car accidents?
Studies that have examined the issue have come to seemingly conflicting results.
One study done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) compared insurance claims from crashes in states that had recently legalized recreational marijuana with claims from states where it was still illegal. Controlled for population differences and other factors, the IIHS found that states that allowed recreational marijuana saw 3% more car crashes than other states.
However, another study done by the American Journal of Public Health looked at the traffic accident fatality rate in Washington and Colorado before and after they legalized recreational marijuana, plus in a handful of control states. The result: Washington and Colorado's accident fatality rate was similar to the control states both before and after legalization, suggesting that recreational marijuana had no impact on traffic fatalities.
An important difference between the studies, of course, could betray why they conflict with one another: While one looked at insurance claims related to car accidents – something that happens in minor crashes as well as major ones – the other only looked at fatalities, which rarely happen in minor crashes.
Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian Represent Accident Victims
Regardless of the new bill, smoking marijuana and then driving can be a risky endeavor. If you have been hurt by someone who did just that, you deserve compensation. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian online for help.