Tag Archives: Fatalities

Traffic sign.

Cannabis legalization increases traffic fatalities — but mostly in neighboring, un-legalized states

New research from the Monash University looks at the effect cannabis legalization has on traffic fatalities.

Traffic sign.

Image via Pixabay.

Three US states have legalized recreational cannabis sales (RCS) so far: Colorado and Washington in 2015, followed by Oregon in 2015. But does the ol’ herb impact traffic fatalities? New research from the Monash University says yes — especially in areas bordering these states.

Cannabis tourism

“The effect of cannabis legalisation on traffic fatalities is a growing public health concern,” says Dr. Tyler Lane, lead author of the study.

“The results suggest that legalising the sale of cannabis for recreational use can lead to a temporary increase in traffic fatalities in legalising states. This spills over into neighbouring jurisdictions through cross-border sales, trafficking, or cannabis tourists driving back to their state of residence while impaired.”

The team calculated a baseline number of deaths resulted from traffic accidents in the three states and nine neighboring jurisdictions — Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, British Columbia, Oregon, California, and Nevada — prior to legalization.

They compared this with figures of traffic fatalities recorded after legalization to get the number of additional deaths per month compared to states that had not changed cannabis laws. Traffic fatalities increased only temporarily, they report — this increase lasted for about one year following legalization. The study area sums up a population of roughly 27 million people, and saw an additional 170 deaths in the first six months following legalization, the team reports.

However, the team was also surprised to find that neighboring states and provinces saw a slightly larger increase in fatalities than the studied areas. This effect was more pronounced in population centers closest to the border of a legalizing state. The team believes this comes down to cannabis users driving interstate to make purchases before returning under the influence.

This ‘cannabis tourism’ has important implications for both legalizing states and their neighbors, the team explains. Furthermore, the results may be applicable elsewhere, too, as prohibitions against cannabis are lifted.

“Our findings suggest that policymakers should consult with neighbouring jurisdictions when liberalising cannabis policy to mitigate any deleterious effects,” says Dr. Lane.

She adds that these results stand in contrast to research on medicinal cannabis, which suggests it decreases traffic fatalities. One reason for the difference may be that medicinal users tend to substitute cannabis for other substances, including alcohol, which have a greater effect on impairment. Recreational users are less likely to substitute and more likely to combine alcohol and cannabis, which has a much bigger effect than either in isolation.

The paper “Traffic fatalities within US states that have legalized recreational cannabis sales and their neighbours” has been published in the journal Addiction.

Climate-change-induced heat will kill tens of thousands of Americans every year by 2090

According to a new analysis performed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, failure to limit emissions might cost the lives of more than 13,000 Americans every year by the mid 2040s and more than double that number by 2090.


Image via Pixabay.

From agricultural breakdown to rising ocean levels, climate change will drastically change our world and our place in it. But its effects always feel like they’ll take place somewhere else, don’t they? The ocean’s far away, and farms are a pretty rare sight these days. One effect, however, will hit everywhere, cities in particular, and will enact a massive toll of human lives — scorching summer heat.

“If we continue to emit climate-changing pollution at our current rate, our largest urban areas like New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis will see many more summertime deaths,” the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) report reads.

Deadly hot

Heatwaves can lead to a number of dangerous, potentially fatal health conditions, such as heatstroke, cardiovascular, and respiratory disorders. Children and the elderly are particularly at risk, as are low-income families who can’t afford to cool their homes or (largely thanks to the Don’T Care Act) seek medical help from heat-associated symptoms.

The paper estimates that for 45 of the US’ largest urban centers alone, heat-related fatalities could total 13,860 every year by the mid-2040s — that’s roughly 150 deaths, every day, for the whole summer. By 2090, that figure could increase to a staggering 30,000 per year, or more than 300 deaths every day of summer.

The 2090 estimates show that heat waves could kill 7,370 people per year in New York on average, 5,040 in Philadelphia, 2,440 in Chicago and 1,340 in Boston. Juanita Constible, the NRDC’s special projects director and author of the report, said that the analysis shows “some of the most dire consequences” of where current US policy is leading the country.

“The Trump administration is doing everything it can right now to roll back climate and health protections,” she said.

“Instead of accelerating our nation’s transition to a cleaner, safer future, President Trump and his Cabinet are driving in reverse with their eyes closed.”

NRDC graph.

Image credits Natural Resources Defense Council.

The best way to put these figures into context is by looking at past statistics. Between 2006 and 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, there were about 620 reported cases of heat-related deaths. In the entire US.

Constible also estimates that if countries around the world meet their Paris goals, some 12,820 lives could be saved each year in the largest 45 metropolitan areas, the NRDC estimates — more than 3,100 in New York alone, and around 1,600 in both Philadelphia and Chicago.

But again, that’s contingent on the goals agreed upon in Paris, which aim to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, being met. With the US’ recently announced withdrawal from the agreement, one of the largest emitters in the world doesn’t seem interested in pursuing that goal any longer. At the same time, Americans will likely have to deal with both more frequent, and more intense heatwaves, as well as a more polluted and dangerous environment: President Trump has promised to save America’s dying coal industry, and increase oil and gas production, and is set to gut the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding for climate programs.

“To minimize needless and preventable American deaths from heat-related causes, the Trump administration must cease these rollbacks of vital health and environmental protections and immediately recommit to the Paris Agreement,” the report concludes.

You can read and download the full report here, via NRDC.