Police Officers trying to determine whether motorists are under the influence of marijuana will have additional training this week as law enforcement officials gear up for larger numbers of stoned drivers. Stoned driving has proven difficult to track. Officials began keeping records on pot impairment specifically in January. Sgt. Mike Baker of the Colorado State Patrol estimates that about 15% of the impaired driving citations issued for the month were related to marijuana. He anticipates it will take a few years to determine the effect of the new marijuana laws on driving.
Colorado has promulgated training so that officers will be able to differentiate pot use versus alcohol. There are 25 state troopers participating in a nine day intensive course on recognition and prosecution of stoned drivers. There have been 50 other state troopers certified as specially trained drug recognition experts, to deal with the expected increase in impaired drivers. The Colorado Department of Transportation has increased the number of training classes to help fill local departments with marijuana-detection specialists. “Currently, there are about 190 Drug Recognition Experts among the Colorado’s 55 police agencies,” said Glenn Davis, program manager for the Office of Transportation Safety, “We want the most highly trained officers out there, and this class is one of the biggest things CDOT can offer”.
Although some of the tests for pot and alcohol are similar, roadside evaluations such as the walk and turn, and finger- to- nose and eye examinations, some tests are specific to marijuana use. Reddened eyes and dilated pupils are indicative of pot use. The training is necessary as it is more difficult to spot a stoned driver. Under Colorado’s newest DUI laws, a driver is considered under the influence if their blood contains five nanograms of active THC in their blood at the time of driving. The problem is that there is no consensus on how much marijuana a driver must consume to be under the influence, as the drug is absorbed differently in the bloodstream.
The new training emphasizes that the officers must go through a checklist of procedures prior to taking a motorist into custody. Additional topics that will be addressed are the effects of drug combinations, and different species of cannabis. As Trooper Jerry Sharp, a DRE instructor said, “Slowly but surely we will get to know the territory, and marijuana driving enforcement will become like drunk-driving enforcement, but we are the guinea pigs here.”
As we mentioned in a previous blog, stoned drivers pose a threat to others on the road, as was illustrated when a driver crashed into two State Patrol vehicles in January. The Law Offices of Robert Paysinger, P.C. recommends that all drivers take the privilege of driving seriously. All families are at the mercy of other drivers willingly or not. Do not drive under the influence of any substance that affects your ability to drive. Driving requires focus and attention at all times. Driving under the influence of pot or alcohol adversely impacts your ability to navigate the streets and highways of Colorado safely. If you or a loved one has been injured by an impaired or distracted driver, call our personal injury attorneys for a free consultation to find justice.
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