Pot-related fatalities up
There’s good news, and there’s bad news.
The good news is that traffic deaths continue to decline in Colorado, according to 2011 data recently released by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). That drop in traffic fatalities is attributed to better highway design, improved automobile design, traffic law enforcement and a decrease in drunk driving.
The bad news is that drugged driving is on the rise in this state. CDOT reports:
- drugged driving kills an average of two people per week in Colorado. That’s more than four times the number of deaths of Columbine and Century Theater combined.
- One half of those deaths are caused by marijuana use.
- Deaths caused by drugged driving are increasing at the same time overall traffic deaths are decreasing. The most rapidly increasing cause of drugged driving deaths is marijuana use.
- Fatalities caused by drivers who tested positive for marijuana increased 26 percent.
Marijuana use once caused one-third, or about 33%, of drugged driving deaths in Colorado. However, drugged-driving fatalities caused by marijuana use crossed the 50% mark in 2010 — the year dispensaries started to take off in this state. In 2011, marijuana use was cited as the cause of 56% of drugged driving deaths.
About 85% of drivers killed in collisions in Colorado have their blood tested for alcohol and drugs. In 2011, 51% of those dead drivers who tested positive for any impairing substance, tested positive for drugs. The remainder tested positive for alcohol, or a combination of alcohol and drugs. Driving impairment because of drug use is no longer a fringe problem. It is becoming dominant.
Ed Wood is an expert on issues related to drugged driving. His relentless pursuit of legal reform surrounding impaired-driving laws is tragic: His own son, Brian, was killed at age 33 in 2010 by a drugged driver.