Nine states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana. As the area of legalization widens, laws about how DUIs affect auto insurance will continue to change. Read on to learn how things currently stand.
More car insurance claims?
A study released in June 2017 by the Highway Loss Data Institute found legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado, Oregon and Washington had led to 3% more insurance claims involving traffic collisions than would have been expected if recreational marijuana hadn’t been legal. To come up with that number, the data institute compared the frequency of collision claims in Colorado, Oregon and Washington with the frequency in neighboring states.
The study took into account claims filed from 2012 through 2016. “There is mixed evidence about the effects of smoking marijuana and driving,” says Russ Rader, senior vice president of communications at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an affiliate of the Highway Loss Data Institute. “The fact is that when you’re impaired, you’re impaired, and you shouldn’t get behind the wheel — whether it’s impairment from marijuana or alcohol.”
Does marijuana use affect your auto insurance rates?
As researchers continue to study the connection between smoking pot and driving, uncertainty remains about the link between marijuana use and auto insurance rates. “Car insurance companies are certainly watching closely to see if pot usage may eventually become a relevant factor for setting rates. But it will take more research and legislation before a correlation is determined,” says Loretta Worters, vice president of communications at the industry-supported Insurance Information Institute.
As explained by Worters, if you’re involved in a car wreck when you’re high, your auto insurance rates might go up, but not because you’d been smoking weed. Instead, it’s because you crashed your car. In Oregon and Washington, your auto insurance premiums might increase significantly over several years if you’re convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), which can include driving while high, Worters says.
Also, your policy could be canceled altogether, forcing you to buy costly SR-22 coverage. SR-22 coverage is often required for drivers who’ve had serious run-ins with traffic cops.
Measuring marijuana-related DUIs
As it stands now, state standards for determining marijuana-related DUIs are all over the map. Unlike alcohol which measures blood alcohol to determine a DUI, marijuana currently does not have an equivalent. Many are calling for no test but rather a pass/fail approach to marijuana use and driving. AAA says that would be too stringent seeing as we do not do the same for alcohol.
Instead, AAA suggests states require a positive test for recent marijuana use and behavioral and physiological evidence of driver impairment to determine whether a they are under the influence. However, until more research is done, DUI law regarding marijuana remain hazy.
By John Egan