Law enforcement around the state, along with the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, is focusing on drug-impaired driving April 19-20.
Jon Nelson is with the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety and Traffic Division and is Assistant to the State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer.
Nelson said this is the second year they are putting on the campaign centered around the 4/20 timeline.
“This 4/20 date is significant in the marijuana community, specifically, but, like alcohol and other drugs, marijuana can significantly impair and inhibit a person’s ability to drive and operate a motor vehicle safely. Anytime we see drivers that are under the influence of a substance, it not only puts that driver at risk and the people in their vehicle, but also all of the others on the road,” Nelson said. “We want to make sure that… people understand that even though legalization of marijuana is becoming more widespread, it’s never acceptable to drive under the influence of marijuana or any other drug.”
Nelson said law enforcement has seen an overall increase in the prevalence of drugs in drivers in some impaired crashes.
According to the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, preliminary data from 2018 indicate, 78 people were killed and 142 more were seriously injured in Missouri traffic crashes that involved at least one drug-impaired driver.
St. Joseph Police Department Sgt. Larry Stobbs said there are misconceptions surrounding Missouri passing the medical marijuana laws.
“The reality is, if you smoke marijuana and then drive a car, you are just as impaired as you would be if you were driving under the influence of alcohol,” Stobbs said. “The impairment may be a little different between the two, but… if you’re under the influence, it doesn’t matter whether you’re impaired by marijuana or some other type of drug or if you’re impaired by alcohol, you’re still subject to the same laws.”
Stobbs said the real life consequences of being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can include losing your license, paying court and attorney costs, increased car insurance rates and increased charges if you injure or kill someone in a crash.
“It’s almost been 20 years ago, we had one of our police dispatch supervisors that was killed on her way to work by an impaired driver. The last I knew, that individual that struck and killed her is still sitting in prison because he was convicted of second degree murder. I’m sure that if you’d go back to that gentleman and go, ‘Would you have rather paid $10 for a cab ride someplace or would you rather spend 20 years in prison?’ We all know what the answer to that would be,” Stobbs said. “I know back 20 years ago when I spoke to him, he didn’t have any intentions of hurting anybody, he never thought he was going to be in an accident. That’s the thing that people need to stop and realize, is that when you’re impaired, you’re not at your 100% best.”
To learn more about the drug-impaired driving enforcement campaign, go to savemolives.com.