Sure, I Can Drive Stoned Just Fine!
Many of Colorado’s teenage drivers think they can drive safely while high on marijuana, according to a new poll by the state’s Department of Transportation (CDOT).
The CDOT research, which was released on Monday, February 5, is based on a survey of 1,000 persons conducted in 2023. It shows that residents in the “Gen-Z” cohort, which includes those between the ages of 16 and 24, are more likely than the typical Colorado driver to consume cannabis and to drive while impaired.
According to the report, 20% of drivers in the Gen-Z age group admitted to driving within two hours of consuming marijuana at least once in the past month, compared to 7% among older age groups. Additionally, the report highlights that 37% of Gen-Z respondents believe they can safely operate a vehicle after consuming marijuana.
Sam Cole, a Traffic Safety Manager with CDOT, expressed concern over these findings, stating, “That’s alarming to us, and it’s perhaps a wakeup call for us to double down on our efforts to reach out to young cannabis consumers.”
Further elaborating, Cole pointed out that analysis of statewide law enforcement data revealed that 62.5% of Gen-Z drivers who were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) tested positive for cannabis in their system.
In 2023, Colorado Springs Police reported 22 cases of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) attributed to marijuana, marking the lowest number recorded since 2015, the year following the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.
Cole remarked, “Young drivers in their late teens and twenties are generally the most hazardous on our roads. They are less likely to wear seat belts, more prone to using their phones while driving, and more inclined to driving under the influence of various substances.”
It is in response to such trends that the state plans to launch a new initiative in April, complementing existing campaigns against impaired driving.
Cole explained the new campaign, named “Meet the Effects,” which aims to educate about the various impairments caused by cannabis on driving abilities. These include distorted perceptions of time, distance, and speed, as well as a compromised ability to maintain divided attention while driving.
Under Colorado law, drivers found with 5 nanograms or more of THC in their system can face prosecution for DUID.
For a first offense of DUID alone, penalties can include up to a year of imprisonment, substantial fines, and a suspension of driving privileges for up to 9 months.
High Rates of Impaired Driving Among Gen-Z
The results of the CDOT poll reveal alarming patterns of drunk driving among Gen-Z drivers. It highlights a serious problem since 20% of respondents admitted to driving within two hours after using marijuana at least once in the previous month, compared to only 7% among older age groups. Because driving while high is more common among Gen-Z, there may be a need for focused interventions and awareness efforts to dispel the myth that driving while intoxicated is safe.
Even more concerning is the report’s finding that 37% of Gen-Z respondents think they can drive safely after using marijuana. This belief runs counter to scientific data demonstrating how marijuana seriously inhibits cognitive abilities necessary for safe driving, including coordination, response quickness, and decision-making. Such attitudes among young drivers highlight the need for focused educational measures to overcome this misperception because they not only put other road users in danger but also themselves.
The frequency of marijuana-impaired driving among Gen-Z drivers emphasizes the significance of taking preventative action to avoid impaired driving. Authorities may design interventions to successfully reach and educate young drivers about the risks of driving while intoxicated by identifying the elements that contribute to this behavior. In addition to emphasizing the dangers of marijuana usage, these campaigns ought to stress the moral and legal ramifications of driving while intoxicated, encouraging safe driving practices.
Colorado’s Response: New Initiatives to Combat Impaired Driving
Colorado is proactively addressing drunk driving among young drivers in reaction to the alarming patterns that the CDOT report uncovered. The state is beginning a new campaign in April to prevent impaired driving, namely among Gen-Z individuals, after realizing the need for focused interventions. This program demonstrates a dedication to making traffic safety a top priority and shielding pedestrians and drivers from the dangers of drunk driving.
The new campaign, aptly named “Meet the Effects,” is designed to educate young drivers about the specific impairments caused by cannabis on their driving abilities. By highlighting the various effects of marijuana, such as distorted perceptions of time, distance, and speed, as well as compromised attention, the campaign aims to dispel misconceptions and raise awareness about the dangers of driving under the influence. Through targeted messaging and outreach efforts, the campaign seeks to empower young drivers to make responsible choices behind the wheel.
Colorado’s proactive strategy emphasizes how crucial it is for law enforcement, government agencies, and community partners to work together to successfully handle the complicated problem of impaired driving. Through a combination of enforcement actions, support services, and instructional programs, the state hopes to lower the number of incidents involving impaired drivers and improve road safety in general. Colorado is steadfast in its commitment to promoting a culture of responsible driving and safeguarding the safety of all users of the roads via ongoing monitoring and assessment of these initiatives.
The CDOT’s survey highlights a troubling trend of impaired driving among Gen-Z individuals in Colorado, particularly involving marijuana use. With significant proportions of young drivers admitting to driving under the influence and holding misconceptions about their ability to do so safely, urgent action is needed to address this issue. Colorado’s response, including the initiation of the “Meet the Effects” campaign, signifies a proactive approach aimed at educating young drivers about the dangers of impaired driving and promoting responsible behavior behind the wheel. By combining targeted interventions, enforcement efforts, and community engagement, the state aims to reduce the prevalence of impaired driving incidents and enhance overall road safety. However, sustained efforts and collaboration between stakeholders are essential to effectively tackle this complex issue and ensure the well-being of all road users. Ultimately, fostering a culture of responsible driving and raising awareness about the risks associated with impaired driving are crucial steps towards creating safer roads for everyone