Recent findings by the Colorado State Patrol indicate a large increase of impaired drivers have a combination of alcohol and marijuana during arrests.
On the eve of April 20, also known as 420, the unofficial cannabis holiday, the Colorado Department of Transportation and Mothers Against Drunk Driving Colorado released a news release addressing driving under the influence statistics.
“We’ve surveyed close to 20,000 cannabis consumers on the issue,” said Sam Cole, CDOT communications manager.
“And while many know that driving high is illegal, they still don’t understand how dangerous it can be to combine marijuana with alcohol. We hope these stories, told by real Coloradans, will change some minds and encourage people to find alternatives to driving impaired.”
According to Colorado State Patrol data, arrests increased 90% for drivers impaired by cannabis and alcohol, and 17% for drivers impaired by cannabis and other substances between 2019 and 2020.
While alcohol remains the most common substance found in fatal crashes involving an impaired driver, State Patrol reported an uptick in fatal crashes that involve cannabis. The num-
ber of drivers involved in fatal
crashes with active THC above the legal limit of 5 nanograms increased from 33 in 2017 to 49 in 2019.
During those same years, fatalities that involved alcohol fell from 192 to 164.
“We work with people every day who are affected by impaired driving,” said Fran Lanzer, executive director of MADD Colorado, “and these stories show some of the tragic outcomes of drug- and alcohol-impaired driving — we hope that people realize that their choices can have very serious consequences and choose to make a plan for a safe ride home.”
Other statistics that were included:
n State Patrol cited 4,805 drivers for DUI in 2020. Of those, 865 involved alcohol combined with marijuana, up from 455 in 2019.
n While trace amounts of active Delta-9 THC don’t necessarily equate to impairment, the substance is appearing more often in driver toxicology tests. In 2019, of the 416 fatalities in which a driver was tested for Delta-9 THC, 25% were positive — up from 20% in 2016.
n In 2020, 208 people were killed by a suspected impaired driver in Colorado, which is 33% of all people killed in traffic crashes that year — and an 18% increase over 2019.