A recent state survey of drivers shows seven out of 10 people have used marijuana, and almost half of those have recently driven within a couple of hours after using marijuana. Law enforcement statewide is cracking down on impaired driving with extra DUI patrols between now and January 1.
According to preliminary results of a June survey by Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) measuring driver impairment on Washington’s roads, nearly 90 percent of those who drove after marijuana use said they did not think marijuana degraded their driving ability, despite research showing that driving while high doubles your chance of killing yourself or others in a crash. In fact, 25 percent of those respondents felt that driving while high made them a better driver.
“It’s extremely troubling to me that so many marijuana users think that driving high is not a problem. It’s a serious problem,” said Darrin Grondel, Washington Traffic Safety Commission director.
From 2009 through 2013, more than 1,000 people died in impaired driving collisions in Washington. Impaired driving is involved in nearly half of all traffic deaths and more than 20 percent of serious injury collisions.
In addition to those tragic consequences, a DUI arrest comes with heavy penalties: up to a year in jail, a $5,000 fine and loss of a driver’s license. DUI offenders can also be ordered to wear an electronic ankle bracelet. Many must install an ignition interlock device, which prevents a car from starting if the driver has been drinking. Defense attorney fees can cost as much as $10,000, and insurance rates can double.
In Whatcom and San Juan counties, the Bellingham, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden and Western Washington University police departments, the Whatcom County and San Juan County sheriff’s offices and the Washington State Patrol will be teaming up and participating in the extra patrols, with the support of the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.
These extra patrols are part of Target Zero – striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030. For more information, visit targetzero.com. Additional information on the PIRE survey and results can be found at wtsc.wa.gov/pire. Information on the Washington Traffic Safety Commission can be found on the agency website, wtsc.wa.gov.