A study found a correlation between some states with legalized recreational marijuana use and the frequency of collision claim reports.
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“Drive high, get a DUI.”
That’s the message of a new national ad campaign launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is seeking to spread awareness of the dangers of drugged driving.
Amid signs of a spike in roadway deaths due to marijuana, opioids and other drugs, NHTSA warned that drug-impaired driving is illegal and is a serious threat on American roadways.
“If you feel different, you drive different,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King said at an event in Nashville. “That’s the message we have for anyone using alcohol, marijuana or other drugs, whether obtained legally or illegally.”
Some 44 percent of drivers killed in crashes in 2016 who were tested afterward had drugs in their system, according to a recent Governors Highway Safety Association study. That’s up from 28 percent a decade ago.
Some experts have posited that state laws legalizing marijuana use have contributed.
NHTSA said that educating Americans about the risks of drugged driving is the priority in its ad campaign running Aug. 15 through Sept. 3. But the agency made no announcements about any proposed policies or training investments to tackle the issue.
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Spotting drugged driving poses a challenge for police departments in part because many officers aren’t adequately trained on how to spot it. Drunk driving, which is widely considered to be more dangerous and widespread, is a bigger priority.
Another issue: Toxicology tests aren’t necessarily conclusive. The main active ingredient in marijuana, THC, stays in the body far longer than it impairs your performance on the road.
But Matt Myers, incoming chair of the drug recognition expert section of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said that detecting drug-impaired driving is “just a different set of challenges.”
It’s a “common misperception” that it’s harder, he said. He said about 10,000 officers around the country have been trained as drug recognition experts.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
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