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Does marijuana cause as many car accidents as alcohol?

Though marijuana is still against the law at the federal level, more and more states have chosen to legalize the drug, either for medicinal or recreational purposes. This will almost inevitably mean more people will take to the road while under the effects of cannabis.

In fact, people may already be driving high more often than ever before. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey from 2013-14 reported that motorists with marijuana in their system had jumped from 8.6 percent in 2007 to 12.6 percent in 2014 -- a 50 percent increase in just seven years.

This sounds worrisome on the surface. A 50 percent increase in the drinking and driving rate would be a major traffic safety concern. But does marijuana affect your ability to drive safely as much as alcohol?

Apparently not, according to a study described earlier this year by CBS News. The study examined data from more than 3,000 drivers involved in car accidents over a 20-month period, and compared that info with that of 6,000 drivers who avoided crashes in that time period.

Researchers concluded that people with marijuana in their systems were more likely to get into an accident than sober motorists. But the difference may be due to other factors other than the effects of cannabis. The study suggests that demographics might be in play. Marijuana users are more likely to be young men, who are more likely to get into crashes across the board.

Still, as Pennsylvania lawmakers consider legalizing marijuana in some form, they should keep in mind the possible impact on traffic safety.

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