With pot legal, police worry about road safety

Published: Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 11:16 a.m. CDT

DENVER (AP) — It’s settled. Pot, at least certain amounts of it, will soon be legal under state laws in Washington and Colorado. Now, officials in both states are trying to figure out how to keep stoned drivers off the road.

Colorado’s measure doesn’t make any changes to the state’s driving-under-the-influence laws, leaving lawmakers and police to worry about its effect on road safety.

“We’re going to have more impaired drivers,” warned John Jackson, police chief in the Denver suburb of Greenwood Village.

Washington’s law does change DUI provisions by setting a new blood-test limit for marijuana — a limit police are training to enforce, and which some lawyers are already gearing up to challenge.

Drugged driving is illegal, and nothing in the measures that Washington and Colorado voters passed this month to tax and regulate the sale of pot for recreational use by adults over 21 changes that. But law enforcement officials wonder about whether the ability to buy or possess marijuana legally will bring about an increase of marijuana users on the roads.

Statistics gathered for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that in 2009, a third of fatally injured drivers with known drug test results were positive for drugs other than alcohol. Among randomly stopped weekend nighttime drivers in 2007, more than 16 percent were positive for drugs.

Marijuana can cause dizziness and slowed reaction time, and drivers are more likely to drift and swerve while they’re high.

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