Motorists Who are Drunk or High are Not the Only Problems
In Colorado, nearly 60 motorists are arrested for driving under the influence each day, but they are not the only ones hitting the road with a shortage of the coordination and alertness needed to operate a vehicle safely. What exactly is impaired driving and what is being done about it?
What constitutes impaired driving?
Impaired driving is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or prescription or illegal drugs, while extremely tired or distracted by a cell phone, or while suffering from a medical condition that affects concentration, coordination, or other capabilities that are important for driving.
Alcohol. In Colorado, it is illegal for someone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher to operate a motor vehicle. This offense is known as driving under the influence (DUI), and BAC is the only proof of impairment necessary to determine guilt. According to Colorado’s implied consent law, every driver in the state is presumed to have agreed to submit to a blood, breath, saliva, or urine test upon the request of a law enforcement officer. Refusal to take the test is a basis for revocation of the person’s driver’s license.
Drugs. According to Colorado law, people driving with five nanograms of active tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) detected in their blood can be charged with DUI, and even those who use marijuana for medicinal purposes can be arrested for DUI. However, because no roadside device is available to detect THC, law enforcement officers arrest individuals based upon observed impairment. Many Colorado law enforcement personnel are trained as drug recognition experts (DREs), and the state averages nearly 60 DUI arrests (drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both) each day.
Fatigue. Although DUI is undoubtedly a serious issue in Colorado, drowsy driving is even more common. According to a recent Sleep Junkie report, Colorado was third in drowsy driving fatalities in 2017 and fifth in the “largest increase in sleep-related driving fatalities” in the U.S. — the state saw a 2.2 percent increase in drowsy driving fatalities from 2016 to 2017. Although drowsy driving is obviously a problem in Colorado, the state has no laws directly addressing the issue, and state funding is focused on seat belt use and drunken driving.
Medical disorders. Medical conditions that can impair driving ability and increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents include dementia, diabetes, epilepsy, cataracts, and macular degeneration. These conditions adversely affect memory, thinking, judgment, vision, and decision-making and social skills, making driving difficult or dangerous. Colorado leaves it up to the driver to disclose a medical condition that could impact his or her ability to drive, although state law does allow law enforcement personnel, court officials, medical professionals, and immediate family members to request that a driver be re-examined if there is reason to believe that the person is unfit to drive.
However, many think Colorado still has a long way to go to get impaired drivers off the state’s roads. In December 2019, a Colorado man was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to his 13th drunk driving charge since 1986.
Contact an Experienced Colorado Personal Injury Attorney
Did you sustain injuries in Colorado auto accident involving an impaired driver? Contact Colorado personal injury attorney Dan Rosen at (303) 454-8000 or (800) ROSEN-911 to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss the details of your case.