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Drugged Driving Versus Drunk Driving: Is There a Difference?

When you get in a car, you always accept a certain amount of risk. One of the most unpredictable risks on the road is the condition of the drivers around you. Even if you do everything right, if another driver is distracted or impaired, an accident can be difficult to avoid. 

Since the State of Colorado allowed marijuana for recreational use in 2014, one of the concerns associated with this policy has been whether we would see an increase in car accidents caused by so-called “drugged drivers.” Like drunk drivers, drugged drivers are a liability on the road. To deter driving under the influence of marijuana, Colorado law provides that drivers may be prosecuted if they test positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the primary psychoactive chemical in recreational marijuana) at or above a threshold level of 5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). However, a driver may be considered impaired at even lower levels, and impaired drivers often cause damage before they can be prosecuted.

You should understand how to spot the signs of a drugged driver and what to do if you encounter a drugged driver on the road. If you are involved in an accident due to an impaired driver, a knowledgeable Colorado Springs DUI accident lawyer can help you understand your rights.

How Common is Drugged Driving in Colorado?

After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often detected in drivers involved in a car accident. In 2017, three percent of adults in Colorado reported driving within two to three hours of consuming marijuana – roughly equivalent to the number of adults who reported driving after overindulging in alcohol. However, the Colorado State Patrol (CPS) has reported a significant increase in marijuana-related citations over the last two years:

  • Between 2017 and 2018, marijuana DUI citations increased by 25 percent, and DUI citations involving both marijuana and alcohol increased by 112 percent.
  • In 2018 alone, 20 percent of all DUI citations issued by CPS involved marijuana.

Further, a new study issued in June by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice found that approximately two-thirds of drivers charged with a DUI tested positive for cannabis-related chemicals. Over half of these exhibited THC levels at or above 5 ng/mL.

Drivers under the influence of marijuana are causing fatal accidents in Colorado. The Colorado Department of Transportation reported 52 fatalities in 2016 and 35 fatalities in 2017 involving drivers with THC levels at or above the legal threshold.

El Paso County has among the highest numbers of DUI citations in the state of Colorado. When you get on the road in Colorado Springs, there is a good chance you could encounter a drugged driver. By learning how to spot the signs, you are better equipped to protect yourself and your loved ones from potentially disastrous consequences.  Contact a Colorado Springs DUI accident lawyer today to find out more about your legal rights and options.

Spotting a Drugged Driver

Marijuana, like alcohol, affects judgment of time and distance, slows response time, decreases motor function and hand-eye coordination and distracts attention from the road. You may be sharing the road with a drugged driver if you notice any of the following signs of impairment:

  • Drifting in and out of lanes or straddling lane markers;
  • Driving too quickly or too slowly or sudden changes in speed;
  • Tailgating;
  • Slow responses to traffic signals;
  • Swerving or making abrupt turns;
  • Near misses of curbs, objects, or vehicles; or
  • Erratic braking.

If you observe any of these behaviors, stay as far away from the other vehicle as possible, and do not try to pass or signal to the other driver. If you can do so safely, note the driver’s license plate number and other descriptive information about the vehicle (e.g., make, model and color) and report this information to 911. You should also be prepared to report the location of the vehicle and the direction in which it was moving. Taking these steps may help protect you and other drivers on the road and, in the event of an accident, may provide critical evidence for the police, insurance providers, and a car accident lawyer

Contact Our Colorado Springs DUI Accident Lawyer Today for Assistance

If you are injured in an accident with a drunk or drugged driver, our Colorado Springs DUI accident lawyers can help you prove your case and hold the impaired driver responsible. To learn more about how our attorneys can help, contact us at 719-471-3000 or schedule a free consultation online today.

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