People who drive a car in the United States have higher chances of being involved in fatal crashes during the annual cannabis celebration on April 20, according to a new study.
Scientists from the University of British Columbia analyzed 25 years of data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on all deadly traffic accidents in the United States.
The experts compared the ratio of drivers involved in deadly crashes on April 20 after 4:20 p.m. with the number of people involved in fatal traffic accidents during the same time intervals on control days seven days earlier and seven days later.
The researchers found that April 20 was linked to a 12 percent rise in the risk of deadly car crashes. The risk was 38 percent more than that seen on control days for drivers aged 21 years or less. Over the 25 years long study period, the overall rise amounted to 142 additional deaths.
"And sometimes we see patient numbers surge on April 20th," said lead researcher John Staples. "Mostly related to drug use, but it struck me that 4/20 was a really great natural experiment through which we could examine cannabis intoxication and the risk of motor vehicle crashes.”
Annual pot events in Vancouver, San Francisco, Denver, and other cities have increased since the time when the International Weed Day was first popularized in 1991, with thousands of people attending them. It is not known how common it is for people to drive while high on 4/20, but a 2011 study of college freshmen saw that 44 percent of pot users took to driving soon after taking cannabis in the month before the survey.
The 2017 Canadian Cannabis Survey found that only half of the pot users thought that cannabis use impacted driving.
Safer Travel Options For 4/20
The researchers hope that authorities will encourage safer travel options for International Weed Day including designated drivers, taxis, rideshares, and public transit. The experts also hope that event organizers and cannabis retailers will warn users not to drive while under the influence of pot, thereby serving their customers and saving lives.
The research team feels it is crucial to employ multiple strategies to cut down the number of people driving when high throughout the year, especially as Canada and other places are moving toward legalization.
"One-fifth of Americans now live in states that have legalized recreational cannabis, and legalization is set to occur for all Canadians in July 2018," Staples added. "We hope that legalization doesn't lead to more people driving while high."
The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Feb 12.