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4/20 – the self-proclaimed holiday of marijuana users – has been linked to an increase in fatal U.S. car accidents thanks to an analysis encompassing 25 years of data. As most states do not require drug testing in the case of a fatal accident, however, it is unclear if marijuana is due to blame for the increase in accidents. It’s clear, however, that there is a strong correlation between the marijuana holiday and increases in fatal car accidents.
Researchers analyzed data from the U.S. government spanning from 1992 to 2016, looking specifically at the weeks leading up to and following 4/20, as well as the actual date itself. Researchers compared driver deaths on 4/20 with deaths on a date from the prior week and the week after. In most, but not all, states, deaths increased on 4/20 as opposed to before or after the holiday, increasing the risk factor an estimated 12% for drivers on that day. Researchers were able to link an extra 142 driver deaths with the holiday. Similarly to deaths on 4/20, researchers have found a link between alcohol-centered holidays (such as Super Bowl Sunday and/or New Year’s Eve) and an increase in fatal accidents.
Marijuana is known to impair driving ability but is notoriously difficult to directly link to fatal car crashes due to both its frequent use in conjunction with alcohol and the lack of consistent state laws requiring the testing of those involved in fatal accidents for drugs. Additionally, many marijuana users think that it does not impair their driving abilities, and has been on the rise as a factor in fatal accidents throughout recent years.