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Study Tries to (Irrationally) Blame Marijuana for Increased Pedestrian Deaths

Texting

Pedestrian deaths have increased over the last few years, so the Governors Highway Safety Association decided to conduct a study into why. Though the study found there to be several plausible reasons–such as more texting and more drivers on the roads–for the rise in pedestrian deaths, they unnecessarily attempted to blame marijuana legalization.

The group called out the states that have legalized marijuana, even though the data doesn’t point towards marijuana as the cause, reports the New York Times. For instance, in 2017, there were only 4 more pedestrian deaths in Colorado than the year before. In Massachusetts they saw a decrease in deaths from the previous year, and Alaska’s and Maine’s data wasn’t sufficient enough to identify any kind of connection to marijuana legalization.

With insufficient evidence pointing at marijuana as a cause for the deaths, the study’s author, Richard Retting, still threw marijuana into the mix. He said, “We are not making a definitive, cause-and-effect link to marijuana,” but it’s a “marker for concern.”

Many safety experts tout the increase in pedestrian deaths to more people being on the road and using cellphones as the economy recovers from the recession a few years ago.

Jason Levine of the Center for Auto Safety said, “I’d be cautious about drawing a direct link to any potential cause. But it’s certainly worth trying to figure out why those numbers are what they are.”

Retting indicated that after his examination of the data, smartphone use might be a contributing factor. Between 2015 and 2016, pedestrian fatalities rose 10% each year. He noted that smartphone use tripled between 2010 and 2016.

Five states–Arizona, California, Florida, Texas and New York–account for 43% of pedestrian fatalities. The states with the most pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 persons were Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana and New Mexico. In Arizona, pedestrians crossing the street in non-crosswalk areas was oftentimes the cause of the accident.

The study’s data clearly found that distracted drivers and pedestrians are the likely culprits for the rise in pedestrian deaths; Yet, for some unknown and presumably discriminatory reason, the study decided to throw marijuana under the bus.