California legalized marijuana without figuring out how to test for and prevent stoned driving. To counter this problem before commercial pot dispensaries open in January, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) officially launched a campaign in San Diego two weeks ago. “High Means DUI” will combat the perception that driving under the influence of marijuana is safe. It will also increase public awareness across the nation and support policies to reduce the prevalence of driving while high.
There were 3,335 marijuana-related U.S. driving fatalities in 2016, according to a statisticians Alfred Crancer and Phillip Drum. The percentage of marijuana-DUI drivers in fatal crashes is getting close the percentage of drivers under the influence of alcohol. In states that have legalized marijuana, marijuana DUI comprise 24 % of fatal crashes. In Washington, the difference between alcohol-impaired drivers and marijuana-impaired drivers in fatal crashes was only 1.3 % in 2015. Statistics show that once a state legalizes “medical” marijuana, there are substantial gains in the number of accidents involving marijuana.
Families and Safety Advocates Speak Out
Families who have lost loved ones to drivers impaired by marijuana and public safety advocates held a press conference in San Diego on November 7. Corinne LaMarca Gasper and Dana Stevens were among the speakers.
“I think that making the public aware about the danger of marijuana impaired driving is so important because I don’t want another family to suffer the devastating loss my family and our community have felt,” said Corinne LaMarca Gasper, an Ohio mother whose daughter was killed by a marijuana impaired driver.
“It’s time the voices of victims are heard,” said Dana Stevens, SAM’s Grassroots and Field Coordinator, who is in charge of the campaign. “There are thousands of victims due to marijuana on the roadways every year, and we intend to help amplify their voice.”
Kevin A. Sabet, President and CEO of SAM, a group co-founded by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy. “Decision makers often don’t know where to go on this issue, so we wanted to elevate its importance and get this issue on the national agenda. We have made incredible strides with drunk driving over the past few decades, but little attention has focused on marijuana-impaired driving, especially because THC can impair a driver long after one feels intoxicated.”
People Die because of Public Ignorance
Joseph Bresnyan was changing a flat tire near Sacramento on May 3, when he was struck by a stoned motorist. He died instantly, a victim of California’s Proposition 64, which passed without warning people not to drive under the influence.
Bresnyan, 40, was a father of 4. He leaves behind his wife Jennifer, as well as LeighAnn, 15, Colton, 9, Gage, 6, and Jaxson, 2. He played an active part in his kids’ lives, and never smoked, drank or used drugs.
California Highway Patrol tested the other driver for drugs. He admitted to using marijuana, but didn’t seem to realize the dangers of driving after smoking pot.
The public shares much of this ignorance and technology has not caught up with policy. Law enforcement is scrambling to find good ways to test for and control stoned driving, but they haven’t found a solution.
High Means DUI will fill big void
In California, Massachusetts, Michigan and elsewhere, medical marijuana “patients” have killed other drivers. These states don’t adequately regulate their medical marijuana programs to protect the public from stoned driving. Even Corinne LaMarca Gasper’s daughter was killed by a medical marijuana patient from Michigan who was driving in Ohio.
Other groups focused on this problem educate so teens realize the danger of riding with peers who have been using.
HIGH Means DUI should raise awareness, just as Mothers Against Drunk Driving raised awareness and cut into drunk driving.