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Alcohol versus pot DUIs: How do they compare?

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Last week's feature on Jenny Kush, a cannabis activist killed by a drunk driver, brought to light just one of the 1,342 impaired-driving arrests in Colorado made over a nineteen-day period around Labor Day weekend.

Figuring out how many people are caught driving stoned is especially important here, since doing so is a crime in the state and both law enforcement and elected officials describe the issue as a growing menace. Unfortunately, though, there's no one central repository for this information.

Back in May, state legislators finally pushed through legislation establishing an intoxication standard for stoned driving: five nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. During the debate, legislators like Senator Steve King, who co-sponsored the bill, often cited questionable statistics on THC-DUI deaths and accidents and was fond of telling about people "dying on the highways and byways" from red-eyed monsters behind the wheel.

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A drugged-driving poster released by the Colorado Department of Transportation last year.
If that was the case, we wondered if statistics from Labor Day weekend would help shed some light on such claims -- especially when looking at drug versus alcohol DUIs.

But the numbers we got from the Colorado Department of Transportation reflect all arrests for driving under the influence reported by police and troopers in the metro area, with no description of whether the driver tested positive for marijuana, drugs or alcohol -- or if they were tested at all. (Some drivers refuse testing, as is their right.)

Police officers often report what substance they suspect was influencing drivers. In the past, all it took was a cop's anecdotal evidence (smokey breath, dilated eyes, ashes in a pipe) to convict someone of THC DUI. These days, it also takes a blood test.

For people who are tested, their tests take about six weeks to yield results, and even then, the totals aren't reported to a single agency. In order to get that information, then, a reporter would have to contact jurisdictions individually.

Which is exactly what we plan to do. By mid-October, the statistics for most of the metro area should be available, at which point we'll compile the information and compare them against raw data from CDOT.

More from our Marijuana archive: "War of words, claims of nausea over criticism of free-joint rally" and "See Jenny Kush hosting SexPot Radio before her tragic death."


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42 comments
for_the_punx415
for_the_punx415

alcohol is poison...simple as that...I cant tell how many people here have died from guzzleing vodka

tenmen
tenmen

Why dont we have an alcohol drinking license??  You can not buy alcohol without a license, have to go on line or to the DPS and take a test yearly, pay a fee so you can drink. Those convited felons, DUI's, domestic abuse wont get one, at least for a stautory period of time and then have to pay a sizeable bond for your drinking license. I am suprised the filth we have elected to the government have not thought of this before.

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

I think a real world way to judge whether or not you really believe marijuana impairs driving ability is to ask yourself this question:

Would you let your kids get into a car with a driver who just got high and drive them around for the next 2 hour?

whateveryousay
whateveryousay topcommenter

Here is a study that looked at marijuana and driving through lab studies, driving simulator studies and field studies.  It shows dose dependent impairment with marijuana use and driving

http://adai.uw.edu/marijuana/factsheets/driving.htm.

"According to a review by Kelly, Darke, and Ross,17laboratory studies examining the effects of marijuana on skills utilised while driving detected impairments in tracking, attention, reaction time, short-term memory, hand-eye coordination, vigilance, time and distance perception, decision making, and concentration. More recent controlled laboratory research has suggested similarly that marijuana impairs tasks of selective and divided attention, time estimation, and executive function.18- See more at: http://adai.uw.edu/marijuana/factsheets/driving.htm#sthash.PgZmQsGM.dpuf"

In their review of driving simulator studies, Kelly and colleagues17concluded that there is evidence of dose-dependent impairments in marijuana-affected individuals’ ability to control a vehicle in the areas of steering, headway control, speed variability, car following, reaction time and lane positioning. - See more at: http://adai.uw.edu/marijuana/factsheets/driving.htm#sthash.PgZmQsGM.dpuf

Finally, driver culpability studies have suggested that drivers testing positive to marijuana are significantly more likely to be responsible for fatal car crashes than are drug-free drivers.31,32- See more at: http://adai.uw.edu/marijuana/factsheets/driving.htm#sthash.PgZmQsGM.dpuf

http://adai.uw.edu/marijuana/factsheets/driving.htm

Doug Hubka
Doug Hubka

I think the only way to tell if someone is loaded with pot is because they are driving too slow.

RichDenver88
RichDenver88

Perhaps a recall election for Sen. King is in order.... I'm sure I'm not the only one feels that way... #RedEyed#Monsters

Matt Corry
Matt Corry

I should add that a government report is not actual scientific proof. The government lies a lot!

Matt Corry
Matt Corry

My question is, is there any actual scientific proof that smoking marijuana and driving affects reaction time, or actually impairs driving at all? If so, where is it? A bad driver is still a bad driver when high, and a bad driver while drunk is just plain terrifying. Also, 5 nanograms is why to small of a number even if there is proof.

nemopunk15
nemopunk15 topcommenter

We to get after it. While you're at it, pull the data from 1990 to today and break that down. 


If weed stores increase DUID-Marijuana incidents that data should prove it, or disprove it.

NeedzMoarCowbell
NeedzMoarCowbell

Seriously?  You wrote and published an article entitled "Alcohol versus pot DUIs: How do they compare?" to say you didn't have any info to compare them one way or the other????

Tell you what, when you come up with something, don't forget to include data on how traffic accidents and fatalities have trended since MMJ and Amendment 64 kicked in, mkay?

John Zeising
John Zeising

An aspect that many people miss is that of "2nd hand intoxication". I like to go see live music at small clubs, and in the past you could normally smell a little weed in the air. But now many times the air is choked with weed smoke. So to a greater or lesser degree I risk being impaired by no choice of my own (other than it is my choice to go out to see live music and to stay after paying for a ticket or cover charge). At least with alcohol, I dont have to worry about 2nd hand intoxication by being near someone who is using.

stuka1
stuka1

Kinda stupid of you to use that ridiculous and stereotypical photo when you are trying to open a dialogue with the ultimate end of breaking the ignorance that feeds that same stereotype.

LindaLee Law
LindaLee Law

zzzzzzzzz No Denver is NOT a cow town -much lol ( been here 40 yrs)

James Gold
James Gold

If they can find a way to test for it, arrest for it and convict for it, they'll do it and the punishments will be just as swift and harsh, undoubtedly. It'll be a whole new revenue generator.

Ben Deco
Ben Deco

I'm doing dabs driving down I-25 while I type this. I drive with my knees. It's pretty cool.

Marti Babb
Marti Babb

Alcohol is far worse. Testing for cannabis is a joke & so is the belief that there is any comparison. I DO WISH PEOPLE WOULD STOP TOKING UP WHILE DRIVING. So freaking obvious & puts every responsible cannabis user in the dog house. Seeing as more people die from prescription drugs than all the illicit drugs combined...let me know when they start studying driving under the influence of Prescription drugs. Although, it's probably never gonna happen since Big Pharma has our Gov. by the balls!

Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson

They don't compare!! Alcohol makes people drive wild and crazy pot smokers drive slow and cautiously. Pot DUI laws are 100% bullshit!! Blood tests test positive for pot weeks after smoking occurs !! Totally fucked, totally flawed system that just milks the public for money and fattens the govts pocket book. Get ride of that bullshit!

xyzabc
xyzabc

I was walking back to my car after the Bronco game last night and couldn't believe how much the parking lot at 26th and Alcott reeked of marijuana.  And yes, this was coming out of cars waiting to turn on to Alcott.  I'm sure the driver was just driving....right??  I hope Denver PD smells this too and handles it.

Mark Theguythatcouldfly
Mark Theguythatcouldfly

The article states that "(Some drivers refuse testing, as is their right.)" but as far as I know Colorado's Implied Consent Law does not allow that.

Ed Haas
Ed Haas

Well, we know there's less of them because marijuana smokers can actually drive safely high as opposed to the zero percentage of people who can drive while drunk.

steppesmusic
steppesmusic

@Matt Corry So do drug addicts, trying to justify their fix.

JDTinsley
JDTinsley

@John Zeising So you've actually left a concert high just by breathing in second-hand MJ smoke?

stuka1
stuka1

@Ben Deco  Somehow I doubt that.   Nice moniker, though.....

steppesmusic
steppesmusic

@Adam Johnson You mean pot makes people drive absentmindedly with slow reaction skills, right?  Stoners don't ever know how high they sound to normal, functioning people.

wwmwd
wwmwd

@xyzabc  All the people who had a beer at the game were drunk too.  I'm sure they all had designated drivers to get them home....right??  I hope Denver PD makes this illogical leap of reasoning too and handles it.

plantdoctor
plantdoctor

@xyzabc So the smell is what gives it away, yet you said nothing wrong about their driving.  So therefore because of the smoke smell, they should be arrested? Obviously they were not driving bad since that wasn't your concern......point made.

johnh677
johnh677

@Mark Theguythatcouldfly They can only force a breath test.  Missouri v McNeely says that it is unconstitutional for a mandatory blood draw without a warrant.

 

stuka1
stuka1

The bullshit "implied consent" idiocy uses the threat of license revocation for enforcement. 

steppesmusic
steppesmusic

@Ed Haas Only a demented stoner would believe such absurdity.

steppesmusic
steppesmusic

@JDTinsley He doesn't have to be high to be negatively affected by smoke.  We made a decision, as a state, seven years ago to protect bar and club employees and patrons who choose not to smoke, because anyone indoors is subject to the compromised air.  Why this shouldn't apply to marijuana is beyond me.

My sister had to leave a show we were enjoying not long ago because any hint of THC in a random drug test would lead to automatic termination from her job.  That's not fair, as someone who payed equal value.


stuka1
stuka1

@steppesmusic   Delusional, brainwashed neanderthal prohibitionist fuckwits have no idea how stupid and hysterical they sound to normal, functioning people.

plantdoctor
plantdoctor

@wwmwd @xyzabc I'd get in the car with the pots smokers over the drunks ANY day.  Screw drunks and their unpredictability.  I'd rather wait on a table of stoned people, than a table of drunk people.  I'd rather have sex with a man who is high, than one who is going to get limp dick because they are drunk.....and I could go on.  Alcohol is far worse and ruined peoples lives that I care about.  I don't know anyone that pissed on a couch or passed out in the bathroom stoned, but I do know people who have drunk...among other things like KILLING others on the road.  

stuka1
stuka1

@steppesmusic Only a delusional, brainwashed prohibitionist neanderthal fuckwit would say that.

plantdoctor
plantdoctor

@steppesmusic I take concentrated cannabis oil all the time to fight cancer; therefore I do drive stoned a lot.  No different than a pain killer, because my driving record is clean as a whistle, never had a ticket, and never caused an accident.   Ed's point is valid and only a fool doesn't see that.

steppesmusic
steppesmusic

@JDTinsley @steppesmusic @stuka1 Lot's of users become convinced they "need" pot in order to function -- that's what addiction is.

I'm not speaking from a pedestal here: I'm a lot more comfortable in social situations after a drink -- we've all got our vices.  I'm just not going to pretend it's somehow 'medicinal', or that my personal choice to consume it should affect others (by climbing behind a wheel).  It's selfish and irrational.

JDTinsley
JDTinsley

@steppesmusic @stuka1 I know it is controversial, but there are those who are more distracted driving while not high. I believe that pot can serve as an ADD-type med for those people.

steppesmusic
steppesmusic

@stuka1 @steppesmusic No prohibitionist here.  Smoke all you want; just don't pretend you're not impaired when you do.  Everybody has a clean driving record until the moment they don't -- all it takes is one lapse of concentration, and let's not pretend like that doesn't happen to stoners more often than someone who is sober.

No one should be driving while impaired, whether it's from alcohol, marijuana, pain medication, whatever.

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