Pot-Impaired Driving Fatalities Up 100 Percent in Five Years, New Report Says

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A Colorado State Patrol photo from a January crash involving Keith Kilbey, who tested positive for THC and alcohol.
Earlier this week, we shared a Washington Post item that found this year's legalization of recreational marijuana sales has not led to more traffic fatalities. But a new report from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area suggests that stoned driving remains a big problem that's getting bigger, with fatalities increasing 100 percent from 2007 to 2012.

Stats about teen pot use in the report, on view below in its entirety, are also considerably more negative than those in at least one other recent state-sponsored survey. RMHIDTA director Tom Gorman explains and highlights some of his outfit's findings below.

See also: Marijuana Legalization Not Causing More Highway Fatalities, Report Reveals

Regarding the Washington Post piece, Gorman believes it's suspect on a number of counts. For one thing, he notes that traffic fatalities have been on a downward trend for the past six years due to a slew of factors, including reduced driving due to economic conditions and better safety devices in cars. Moreover, the 2014 numbers are "raw data -- not official."

Indeed, the process of finalizing fatality numbers is a slow one. The most recent data in the RMHIDTA report is from 2012, and even it won't be formally blessed by federal officials until this October -- although any changes at this stage will be minor in the extreme, Gorman believes.

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Tom Gorman.
He adds that the RMHIDTA contacted each coroner's office and police agency in the state in an effort to get the most complete view of marijuana-impaired driving, and the resulting figures look grim. Here's an excerpt from the report:
• Overall, traffic fatalities in Colorado decreased 14.8 percent, from 2007 to 2012. During the same five years in Colorado, traffic fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana increased 100 percent.

• In 2007, Colorado traffic fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana represented 7.04 percent of the total traffic fatalities. By 2012, that number more than doubled to 16.53 percent.

As elevated as these stats might seem, Gorman feels they may actually under-report the problem. "Keep in mind that about 48 percent of drivers in fatalities aren't tested," he says. "These are just the ones who are tested."

Given that the RMHIDTA is considered anti-marijuana, the pro-pot contingent may be tempted to side with interpretations along the lines of the Washington Post's. But Gorman thinks there's a lot more bias in the numbers touted by many marijuana advocates than those collected by his organization.

"Sometimes I think people are misinformed and sometimes I think they put a spin on things, and that's very upsetting to me," he notes. "Hopefully when we put something out, it's accurate. You won't see any editorial statements in our report. We want the readers to make their own determination."

For instance, he goes on, "we look at 2009 as being a key year, because that's when we commercialized medical marijuana. So if you look at the years between 2006 and 2008, we averaged about forty marijuana-related fatalities, and from 2010 to 2012, we averaged 63."

The disparity between 2007 and 2012 is even greater -- 37 in the first year, 78 in the last, for an increase of more than 100 percent. Here's the graphic:

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"We were worried with medical marijuana when we had a limited number of people using it," Gorman says. "So what's going to happen with recreational and all these tourists coming in? That's our concern."

Equally troubling for Gorman are the numbers related to youth marijuana use.

Continue for more about the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report, including the complete document.



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284 comments
Celedonia Cepriana Castro
Celedonia Cepriana Castro

If this is true why don't they put it on the new,s. Actually accident all the way around are down. An night time traffic is the worst. Because of DUI,s !

Charlin Humanimalien
Charlin Humanimalien

You are the media. 100% of your statistics are selected based on how many comments they will generate. So, no. No thinking people look at your statistics on anything and feel in any way informed.

Jay Polo
Jay Polo

i can se it because these cops are intimidateing people to concent to blood tests so oh you smoked weed a week ago....well it showed up in your system so here is your dwi

Sean Valdez
Sean Valdez

Yeah these is other articles that say the opposite not just on washington post WESTWORD IS GETTING PAID TO DO THIS JUST WAIT THEY ARE ABOUT TO START VIOLENTLY ATTACKING DISPENSARIES AND FESTIVALS JUST WAIT AND SEE.

Gipke Mikel
Gipke Mikel

I can't believe anything the government or media says. This story is false. Point blank.

Becca Mertens
Becca Mertens

Bull!! In how many of these accidents did the driver also have alcohol in their system as well?? I'd bet that most of these cases alcohol was also a factor! Sick of the propaganda and lies!

Deanna Amick Brady
Deanna Amick Brady

I think this is bogus. First of all where is this technology that now shows when you actually had smoked before driving and not like days or however long ago it shows in your system for about a month and that is through just a pee test but in your hair think it can show longer back. Right away top of the article they talk about a crash with someone who showed THC but also was drunk. I think this is all political. There are plenty of studies from other countries showing many positive changes in different categories after pot was legalized.

Kelly Davidson
Kelly Davidson

This is ridiculous. Really? If anyone actually buys this bs..they need help. Where are all the stats from prescription pill accidents, arrests..etc.? I can damn near guarantee they would be much higher than people that solely smoked weed. Reefer madness bull shit is what this is

Leo Snoneofyobizness
Leo Snoneofyobizness

I used to smoke before it was legal and some of you clueless people don't realize how many people smoke weed in Colorado even before it was legal. I've known people that own multimillion dollar businesses and people that get dressed in suits monday through Fridays and probably wrote your house loan or something else. they were the some of the biggest stoners that I even knew... Bottom line there's been the same amount of smoking going on.... it's probably if anything the out of state "recreational" users. And some tells me this isn't there first go around if you're driving out here to get high

Bob Digi
Bob Digi

I say its bullshit unless its all these young cats out there that can't handle the thc levels that we as adults have been compromising with all these years.know your limt.mind over matter.

Dante Servantez
Dante Servantez

I wish there was a troll filter on the westword page. The only thing I want from these guys is information on the next beer, music, or food event.

Kristen Doty
Kristen Doty

Wowwww they will try anything won't they

Jeffrey Von Stetten
Jeffrey Von Stetten

What is the goal of that fake statistic if not to slander cannabis and justify 100 years of bullshit so they don't have to admit they were wrong. #fail Will the same statistics be run on prescribed pharmaceuticals in alcohol I doubt it hypocrites

Shari Walsh
Shari Walsh

There were no tests for THC to see if people were driving high. So, if they bust 2 people, then it's 100% more than it used to be. They weren't looking for "high" drivers then...now that it is legal...the police are all about it.

Jo Nadani
Jo Nadani

More Conservative's made up statistics and their Reefer Madness mentality.

LindaLee Law
LindaLee Law

You mean pot used by drunk /meth drivers arrests are up There have been few stand alone pot arrests and yeah idiots rules

Shawn Q Ahlers
Shawn Q Ahlers

Gorman's interpretation of data seems to be less scientific than subjective; indicative of a biased agenda. take the science or objectivity out of any study and one can make the numbers say whatever one might hypothesize.

Lorina Gonzales
Lorina Gonzales

We should be more focused on drunk driving an hit an runs.not on if some one has smoked pot 3 weeks ago.

Christy Jones
Christy Jones

Its up because before it was a DUI charge. Now it isn't. Duh....

Henry Kelsey
Henry Kelsey

Of course the pot heads say it's all a lie.

Michael Hartman
Michael Hartman

Westword, you are essentially promoting propaganda on your page. Have some journalistic integrity and stop with this click bait.

David Thead
David Thead

Nothing can increase 100% in math, possibly 99% but that is the highest of all probabilities. If something doubles, then it has increased by 50%. Similar to how one can never make 100% profit.

sballardo672
sballardo672

I did a paper on this in college.  If a driver had a blood alcohol over .018 (legally drunk) and also tests positive for marijuana, the accident is automatically classified as marijuana related because it is (was) a Class A drug.  That said, there are two types of THC (THC1 and THC2).  THC1 reflects the cumulative amount of marijuana in their system, as in, habitual smokers will show a high level of THC1; however, does not show the current level, or, how high they currently are.  THC2 shows how high they currently are.  The research does not differentiate between the two. 


Also, why is this just now coming out?  Is it because marijuana is now legal and opponents are using any and all data to repeal the law?


Regardless, their research is flawed.

JJames Wallace
JJames Wallace

I say BULLSHIT; can't try and make herb look worse than alcohol.. that's all the fuckin news and other garbage propaganda have been doing lately.

Dalton Brown
Dalton Brown

People have been smoking large amounts and driving forever . You think people didn't look like. Cheech and Chong leaving the theaters back in the day or concerts.? People used to smoke sooo much now it's like a j or two or some dabs and people are cool. I don't get these statistics look at the comments. Neither does anyone else.

Reid Perry
Reid Perry

"Well at least I wasn't driving under the influence of alcohol," said the stoner. "My kid is just as dead," said the mother who's car was hit by the stoner. Can we all agree that driving impaired, regardless of the cause, is just not a good idea? It's not about pot or alcohol or whatever, it's about someone taking someone else's life in their own hands and driving a motor vehicle while impaired.

Stephen Felt
Stephen Felt

They're up 100% because there wasn't any five years ago

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