For the past 10 years, distracted driving was the most common cause of fatal car accidents in New Jersey. However, according to a recent report from the state police, intoxicated drivers now cause the most fatal traffic accidents in the state.
Lawmakers are now calling for annual reporting of fatal cannabis-related car crashes in an attempt to reverse this trend.
Intoxicated driving statistics
With 697 people dying in 667 crashes in 2021, the number of fatal crashes in New Jersey increased for the third straight year. Intoxicated driving contributed to 210 fatal crashes representing a 30% increase compared to the 162 crashes that involved intoxicated driving in 2020. The analysis indicated that 91 drivers, 13 passengers, two cyclists and 23 pedestrians involved in fatal crashes tested positive for cannabis.
Some officials are blaming cannabis use for the increase in intoxicated driving fatalities. New Jersey made recreational cannabis use legal in 2021. While it is illegal to drive while intoxicated because of cannabis use, there is no set test, such as blood alcohol content to determine intoxication levels. Instead, trained Drug Recognition Experts evaluate drivers to determine who is too intoxicated to drive safely.
Calls for legislation
The New Jersey legislature is considering a bill that would require state police to track and publish statistics on fatal accidents that involve cannabis use. Lawmakers say this is necessary to determine if new legislation is needed because of the role of cannabis intoxication in fatal car accidents.
As law enforcement and the public adjusts to the legalization of cannabis in the state, the laws may also need to adjust to ensure the safety of drivers on New Jersey roads.