According to a new survey from the American Automobile Association (AAA), motor vehicle fatalities increased 10.5% in 2021 with 42,915 fatalities setting a 16-year-high. Driving under the influence of alcohol was up 24% while cannabis climbed 14%. The survey also showed a 12% jump in speeding more than 15 miles per hour over the highway speed limit.
The effects of alcohol on drivers are well-known, but with recreational marijuana legalized in only 21 states, its effects are less publicized. According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, marijuana use can lead to slower reaction time and decision making. Though studies indicate that marijuana use can increase the likelihood of an accident, marijuana’s specific contribution to crash risk is unclear because, unlike alcohol, it can be detected in body fluids for days or even weeks after use.
The AAA survey also reported a 10% increase in driving through red lights, and 6.8% more drivers saying they had used handheld devices while driving even though 92% said they know it is very or extremely dangerous. AAA surveyed 2,657 licensed drivers ages 16 or older who reported having driven at least once in the previous 30 days.
Dr. David Yang, Executive Director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety stated that he wants people to become more aware of the serious consequences of dangerous driving and change course.