DENVER – The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) introduced a new awareness campaign highlighting drug- or cannabis-impaired driving. Part of a statewide initiative called The Cannabis Conversation, CDOT officials and Colorado citizens contributed to the materials in an effort to bring light to the often-overlooked issue.
CDOT said the campaign comes at a time when there has been an increase in the rates of impaired driving accidents.
“According to state data, fatal crashes involving marijuana have been on the rise since 2017, after falling the year before. In 2017, thirty-three drivers in fatal crashes tested positive for five nanograms or higher of Delta-9 THC—the psychoactive component of cannabis—with forty-nine testing positive in 2019,” CDOT said.
“According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) review and analysis of sixty studies, marijuana inhibits safe driving abilities, such as tracking, motor coordination, visual functions, and complex tasks that require multitasking,” the organization added.
In an effort to communicate effectively with state residents, CDOT compiled data from “online surveys, focus groups, workshops, meetings with dispensaries and trade organizations, public meetings, and open houses,” eventually making outreach to 80,000 Coloradans.
“An important takeaway for us was challenging cannabis consumers to rethink the choice to drive under the influence and how it unnecessarily puts others at risk,” said CDOT Communications Manager Sam Cole. “During the testing phase, people who were skeptical about the risks associated with cannabis-impaired driving responded to campaigns that invoked feelings counter to their deeply held beliefs that driving after consuming is solely a personal decision.”
The resulting campaign is called Uncomfortable High, and can be viewed online on connected devices, in print in Colorado dispensaries, and will also mount a radio campaign during September and October.
For more about the new campaign and to view creative materials, visit DriveHighDUI.com.
In related news, U.S. Representatives Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) and Troy Balderson (R-Ohio) in late August introduced the bipartisan Drug-Impaired Driving Education Act of 2020. The legislation would create a $5 million dollar federal grant program that states could access to fund public education about impaired driving.
“Despite common misconceptions, drug-impaired driving is just as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol, and that’s why this bill to expand public education and awareness is so important,” said Representative Rice. “I’ve been working on these issues for my entire career, and I have seen the immense pain and tragedy that they can cause far too many times. I thank Rep. Balderson and the many advocacy groups who are supporting this legislation. We must keep working together until we can end impaired and distracted driving once and for all.”
“When someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, entire communities are put at risk,” Representative Balderson added. “Sadly, this is a fact we know all too well in the state of Ohio, where the opioid epidemic runs rampant. This legislation takes critical steps to educate our communities about the risks associated with drug-driving impaired, including those driving under the influence of opioids and marijuana.”