driving high billboard

CDOT’s Denver billboard aims to deter driving while high .

Picture a billboard that features a 3-D mangled car that resembles a giant marijuana joint. That billboard is now mounted on a downtown Denver building as part of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s campaign to prevent people from driving while high on marijuana.

The inventive billboard  bears the message: “HITS LEAD TO HITS. DON’T DRIVE HIGH.”

The LED-illuminated sign, which is 28 feet tall, is on the side of the Courtyard Marriott at Curtis Street and 16th Street Mall. It delivers the message in a high-traffic area visited by people from out of state.

CDOT’s Communications Manager Sam Cole says:

There are six marijuana dispensaries within a mile of the billboard so it’s very likely marijuana users will see it. It’s also located downtown among scores of hotels where tourists may be staying. Some of these tourists may be unaware of the laws — and dangers — of driving high.

NHTSA Funding for Sign

Kieran Nicholson reports for The Denver Post that NHTSA covered the $16,600 cost of the conceptualization and design (by the advertising agency/public relations firm Amélie Company in LoDo), the media buy price of $12,500, and the $6,000 installation. That agency has created many driving safety campaigns for CDOT. In an interview on the company’s website, agency Creative Director Pat Feehery said he loves the agency’s values and its clients, brands he believes in. “The idea of doing good in this world is something you don’t get in advertising much.”

High Rate of Driving While High

A survey CDOT conducted last year found that 55% of marijuana users said they had driven while high on pot in the past 30 days. And 2016 Colorado State Patrol data shows that marijuana is involved in one of every five DUIs in Colorado.

According to ProCon, Colorado is one of 24 states plus the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana, and was the first of four states plus the District of Columbia to legalize recreational use of pot. And as Aaron Smith writes for CNN Money, Florida, Missouri, and Arkansas will have medical marijuana ballot initiatives November 8. On that date,  California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maine voters will decide whether their states should legalize recreational use of marijuana.

Reaction to Sign

Dozens of comments to the Denver Post article run the gamut:

  • Some commenters expressed disappointment that CDOT is not spending the billboard money on campaigns against distracted or drunk driving.
  • One commenter named Kami888 asks why federal funds are supporting the campaign to dissuade people from driving while high on pot when it is the states and not the federal government that adopt marijuana laws. That same person also believes that lawmakers “protect their own habits” and that they would not support a ballot initiative taxing alcohol.
  • A commenter named 45coltauto speculates there is a fear in some circles that legal marijuana could cut into the alcohol industry’s profits.
  • Someone commenting as Mushy Waffle opines that it is rare that a person gets ticketed for driving while impaired only on pot, and believes that those drivers “busted” for marijuana have also been drinking alcohol.
  • And then there is the comment by someone named Maria, who writes that it is time that “weed” be made illegal in Colorado like it once was.

Finally, one cautionary comment, by CarpaDM, says: “The 3-D billboard may fascinate MJ induced drivers so much that they may have an accident.”