In Colorado, the recreational use of marijuana became legal on January 1, 2014, beginning what the Colorado State Patrol calls “a new era of impaired driving in the state. According to the Denver Post, the CSP has announced the results of its tracking of marijuana driving citations for 2015. Although the 12-month average for DUI/DUID citations related to marijuana increased to 14.6% in 2015 from 12.2% in 2014, the total number of such citations decreased by 1.3% from 2014 to 2015.
Of the 4,546 citations issued for DUI/DUID driving in 2015, 347 were issued for driving when marijuana was the only infraction of the law, whereas in 665 of the citations, more than marijuana was involved. Of the 2014 DUI/DUID citations, fully 70% were the result of “proactive motorist contacts.”
Amy Ford, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said:
Our research indicates that unfortunately a lot of marijuana users are driving high and many believe they will not get a DUI for doing so.
The department seeks to keep the roads safe from accidents caused by impaired drivers, she added, noting that doing so will require both strong enforcement and a public education campaign that targets pot users. According to a recent CDOT survey, 55% of marijuana users drove a vehicle within two hours of consuming marijuana. And only 51% of marijuana users thought they would be arrested for DUI if they drove while high, CSP.
When asked about the 2015 data, Col. Scott Hernandez, chief of the CSP, said:
The efforts made in 2015 highlight the Colorado State Patrol’s continued commitment to the citizens of Colorado to ensure safe travel throughout our state. I am proud of these efforts and will continue to work with our troopers to ensure the safety of all citizens and visitors of our wonderful state.’
Drug Use Recognition
To date, the CSP has trained every trooper, corporal, and sergeant in the Colorado State Patrol in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and has 64 Drug Recognition Experts (DRE).
In The Durango Herald, Jessica Pace reports that only two years of data is not enough on which to base any conclusion. She quotes CSP Trooper Josh Lewis as saying the Patrol will know a lot more once it has two to four years of data to examine.
Capt. Adrian Driscoll of the CSP’s Durango office told Pace that when they stop drivers, troopers look for signs of impairment such as slow speech, drug paraphernalia, and the smell of marijuana. The CSP first starting separating database incident reports of marijuana DUIs from alcohol and other drugs two years ago.
CDOT will continue its “Drive High, Get a DUI” campaign throughout 2016 to educate the public about the dangers of driving while high, including the legal consequences of doing so. In addition, the CSP will continue to collect data and look into trends to help the agency better adapt to fast-changing attitudes towards impaired driving in Colorado.
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