Educating Colorado Drivers on Marijuana-Impaired Driving
The Colorado Department of Transportation is seeking an additional $1 million share of new marijuana tax revenue to try to ensure that pot smokers don’t drive while high and impaired. The officials are asking lawmakers to allocate the money in the state’s proposed CDOT budget for 2017-2018.
The officials hope to use the money from the marijuana cash fund in fiscal year 2017-2018 on a statewide public education campaign showing how pot affects drivers and puts the public’s safety at risk. The campaign would also include stronger efforts to catch people who are driving while high.
A Three-Fold Increase in Funding
In the 2016-2017 budget year, the transportation department relied on a smaller allotment to fund its Heat is On education and enforcement campaign, which targeted drunk driving.
The proposal would more than double CDOT’s special enforcement campaign fund, from $450,000 to $1.45 million. The agency said that the most effective way to combat impaired driving is a combination of mass-media campaigns and high-visibility enforcement, including saturation patrols.
CDOT already has funds for expanded enforcement patrols and for training that enables officers to identify seven categories of substance abuse by drivers, including abuse of cannabis. The new money would allow it to expand its efforts. Long-term goals include reducing Colorado traffic deaths by half by the year 2030—and, ultimately, to zero.
More Than Half of Pot Users in Colorado Admit to Recently Driving While
About 18 percent of people arrested by the Colorado State Patrol for driving under the influence in 2016 were impaired by the effects of marijuana. The police agency accounts for about 20 percent of DUI arrests in the state.
About 55 percent of marijuana users polled admit that they’ve been on the road within two hours of consuming marijuana at some point in the last 30 days. The November 2015 CDOT survey of 839 Colorado drivers also found that 129 were marijuana users and that nearly a third of these users think it’s safe to drive while under the influence of pot. About 91 percent recognized that they could get arrested for driving while high, but only 38 percent thought they’d ever be caught.
Who Is Being Targeted, and Where?
CDOT’s proposed campaign would especially focus on 21-year-old to 34-year-old men, whom it regards as more likely to binge on alcohol and drugs and more likely to combine the two. The proposal contends that young men tend to be less aware than other drivers of the law and of the consequences of getting high and driving. The agency hopes to post ads near and in pot dispensaries, in movie theaters and concert venues, and on social media.
CDOT has already set the tone of its campaign with slogans like “Hits Lead to Hits” and “Drive High, Get a DUI.”
The agency says that given how big the problem is, its current budget is too meager to wage an effective campaign. At present, it can broadcast and publish its messages in state markets for only about one month of the year. It wants to buy more ads that would run over a longer period of time, as well as to expand data collection and creative development efforts.
Of course, no matter how effective the campaign may be, it is unlikely to remove all pot-impaired drivers from the road or persuade all drivers never to get behind the wheel while high to begin with. If you’ve been injured in an auto accident in Colorado in which an impaired driver may be at fault, contact the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen for a free consultation about your case.