April 20th has long been known for its association with marijuana, and 4/20 celebrations are set to take place across the country in cities like Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco, and Vancouver that have thousands of people in attendance.
Some states have already legalized recreational marijuana and soon, the recreational use of the drug will also be legal for all Canadians.
With more and more people enjoying legalization, researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto set out to determine if driving high increased risk of accidents, particularly on 4/20.
“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,” said John Staples, the lead author of the study. “We hope that legalization doesn’t lead to more people driving while high.”
The results were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine and show that drivers face a higher risk of car crashes on April 20th in the United States.
For the study, Staples and fellow researcher Donald Redelmeier examined 25 years of data on fatal traffic crashes in the United States from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Fatal crashes reported after 4:20 pm on April 20th were compared with other crashes during the same time either one week before or one week after April 20th.
After comparing the data the researchers found that driving on April 20th correlated with a 12 percent increased risk of fatal crashes. For drivers younger than 21, this risk increased to 38 percent.
The researchers are not sure how many people drive while high on 4/20, but the results show a definite increased risk if people do.
“Assuming fewer than 10 percent of Americans drive while high on April 20, our results suggest that drug use at 4/20 celebrations more than doubles the risk of a fatal crash,” said Redelmeier.
The team hopes that their findings will create safer policies and travel options, and alert more people to the dangers of driving high.
Ridesharing and free public transportation options that some cities offer on major holidays like New Year’s Eve would reduce the risk of fatal car crashes and ensure that fewer people got behind the wheel high.
“Driving is a potentially dangerous activity,” said Staples. “Improving road safety requires both policymakers and drivers to make smart decisions. If you’re going to get behind the wheel, buckle up, put the phone away, don’t speed, stay sober and don’t drive high.”