Identifying Drugged Drivers in Colorado Remains a Challenge

Recreational marijuana use is legal in our state, but too much can still impair one’s senses. However, is drugged driving as serious as drunk driving? One study by the U.S. Department of Transportation suggests perhaps not. The results of this study determined that drunk motorists were more apt to speed, weave into other lanes of traffic and in general engage in riskier behavior while behind the wheel compared to motorists who had used marijuana. Per the study, generally motorists operating a vehicle after using marijuana did not speed, stayed within their own lane of traffic and kept a greater distance between their vehicle and other motorists.

But, that does not mean that police will not pull a motorist over on suspicion of drugged driving. That being said, devices that can analyze how much marijuana is in a motorist’s system are not available to many officers, and those devices that exist can detect that marijuana was used days before the traffic stop, which makes it difficult to determine whether a motorist’s erratic driving was due to marijuana use or something else. Thus, police generally rely on field sobriety tests to determine if a motorist is too high to drive.

One Colorado State Patrol Officer stated that despite training to recognize drugged driving, officers often must rely on “plain experience” to determine if a drugged driver is a danger to others. In fact, in Denver only approximately 3 percent of DUI arrests were due to marijuana use.

As this shows, determining whether a person should be arrested for DUI due to marijuana use can be subjective and a reliable device for measuring exactly how much marijuana is in a person’s system and when the person last used marijuana does not yet exist. Drugged driving is an issue, but police should not be overzealous and arrest a person for driving after having used marijuana if the person does not present a danger to others on the road.

Posted in DUI

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