Drive high, get a DUI. That warning comes from the Colorado State Patrol, which launched its new campaign today to prevent stoned drivers from hitting the road.
Colorado state troopers are training to become Drug Recognition Experts in order to better spot intoxicated drivers, 9 News reported. The state currently has over 200 officers with DRE certification and additional sections of the nine-day course have been scheduled to prepare state and local law enforcement agencies. Today, 20 state troopers will graduate from the course.
Trooper Josh Lewis said every Colorado state trooper is trained in how to identify impaired drivers. They are re-certified every year in how to give a field sobriety test. All troopers will now be required to be certified in another impaired driving test known as ARIDE, or Advanced Roadside Impairment Detection And Enforcement. Drug Recreation Experts are just that, experts at identifying what substance is impairing a driver.
"You're looking at more the medical side," Lewis said. "At how specific drugs react in the body. One drug may dilate the pupils, another will constrict them. Is the person sweating on a 10-degree day or the shivering because they're cold on a 90 degree day? What's their pulse rate at? All these signs and indicators can lead to one or several different kinds of drugs."
Concerns about stoned driving nearly killed Colorado's recreational-use marijuana bill. In the three months since recreational marijuana became legal, drunk driving is still the main problem on Colorado roadways. Out of the 402 drivers cited for impaired driving in January, 60 were pulled over for suspected marijuana use. That's only 15 percent of DUI citations issued. There's no way to know if the legalization of recreational marijuana has contributed to a rise of DUI citations however, because before the law went into effect, DUIs weren't broken down by what substance drivers had used.
In the course, officers are trained to look for specific warning signs for driving while high. They issue the same field sobriety tests as with drunk drivers, but there are procedures specially designed to detect high drivers.
Officers learn to ask suspects to estimate 30 seconds in his or her head to gauge their internal clock, according to The Denver Post. A stoned driver will have a much slower internal clock and be unable to accurately gauge time.
Police also look for physical signs, such as red eyes or dilated pupils. Stoned driver's eyes may also not track a moving object.
What too stoned to drive looks like is controversial. The limit Colorado has set as the threshold of intoxication , five nanograms per milliliter of blood, is controversial as marijuana affects users differently depending on their average usage and strength of the drug. Heavy users, for example, might have 5 nanograms in their blood even on days when they haven't used.