The Colorado Department of Transportation is encouraging Coloradans to “join the cannabis conversation” about driving under the influence. The new initiative, called The Cannabis Conversation, seeks input from cannabis users and non-users alike. Officials want to hear the opinions, habits, behaviors and other thoughts people have about marijuana and driving. But as Colorado plans to survey residents on weed consumption and driving, the actual impact of legal cannabis on traffic safety isn’t fully understood.
The Department of Transportation hopes their drugged driving initiative will help the state develop practical solutions and assuage public concerns.
Colorado Department Of Transportation Launches Drugged Driving Initiative
Around midsummer last year, newspapers in Colorado began running stories that recreational cannabis use was contributing to a spike in driving accident fatalities.
The Denver Post, for example, ran a story in August reporting that more drivers involved in fatal crashes were testing positive for marijuana use. Yet the authorities quoted in that story admitted that the numbers cannot definitely be attributed to recreational legalization.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that testing for cannabis consumption is tricky. Different detection methods test for consumption in different windows.
Did a driver involved in a fatal accident used cannabis prior to getting behind the wheel? Were they high while they were driving? Or did they just consume cannabis at some point in the past?
In short, the correlation of the data is strong. But proving causation is a different and more difficult matter. In their search for answers, Colorado plans to survey residents on weed consumption and driving.
Colorado’s Drugged Driving Problem By The Numbers
Police, public safety officials, and victims families all say the numbers are too high to ignore. Between 2013-2016, drivers involved in fatal accidents in Colorado rose from 627 to 880, about a 40 percent uptick.
In the same period, drivers who tested positive for alcohol in those fatal crashed increased 17 percent. However, the number of drivers who tested positive for cannabis jumped from 47 in 2013 to 115 in 2016, a 145 percent spike.
Those numbers sounded the alarm for many public health and safety officials in Colorado. And CDOTs drugged driving initiative is the first significant step toward addressing what is undeniably a real concern for many.
Many suspect the root of the problem is cannabis users’ perception that driving high isn’t a major concern. And that’s why Colorado plans to survey residents on weed consumption and driving.
Officials want to better understand why some cannabis users don’t seem to take the dangers associated with high driving very seriously. And more importantly, what it will take to make these drivers change their minds.
Final Hit: Colorado Plans To Survey Residents On Weed Consumption And Driving
The Department of Transportation’s survey is completely anonymous and only takes about five minutes to complete.
Questions range from the practical to the highly subjective. How often do you drive? Consume cannabis? And do you think society still stigmatizes marijuana use?
The survey also wants to know where you consume cannabis, how you consume it, and who/where you get it from.
Midway through the survey, you have the feeling you’re being interrogated about your cannabis lifestyle in general, not just about your thoughts on driving.
But right about around question ten, the survey takes a turn back to questions that aim at the heart of the issue. Do you drink when you smoke? Do you drive? And when you are high, how do you get around? Are your stoned friends giving you a lift?
The survey, overall, is this odd blend of informative and perceptual questioning. Gathering data about real cannabis habits but also asking people to reveal how they think other people view them.
And more interestingly, how capable they think law enforcement is at identifying drugged driving and what are accurate detection times to justify impairment.
Do you think cannabis makes you a better driver? What would convince you not to drive high? If you knew cops were just as good at catching high drivers than drunk drivers, would you drive high less often?
At the end, the survey pivots to what feels like a pop quiz about the legality of driving under the influence of cannabis.
The answers to these types questions are obviously “yes,” but CDOT isn’t sure people really understand the law. And finally, the most interesting question. Who would you believe, who would actually convince you, if they told you driving high was unsafe?