Safe driving encouraged ahead of marijuana ‘holiday’

INDIANA— April 20, more commonly known as 4/20, has become synonymous with marijuana use and, in some circles, is considered a marijuana “holiday.” Consequently, there will likely be an increase in marijuana use, despite being against the law in Indiana.

To prevent crashes, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI) wants to remind motorists that drug-impaired driving of any kind is dangerous, illegal and should be avoided at all costs.

Devon McDonald

“There’s a common misconception that marijuana use doesn’t affect your judgment or that it somehow makes you a better driver,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. “That’s simply false. THC has been known to slow reaction times and impair cognitive performance, which is a dangerous combination when behind the wheel.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 2009 and 2018, the presence of marijuana had nearly doubled among drivers who were killed in crashes and tested for THC.

In light of this growing concern, over the past couple of years ICJI has provided dozens of police agencies with a new tool, known as the SoToxa Mobile Test System, to help identify and keep drug-impaired drivers off the road.

SoToxa is similar to a portable breathalyzer, but instead of testing for alcohol, it tests for the presence of six types of drugs: cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, cannabis (THC), amphetamine and benzodiazepines. In Indiana, the test is voluntary, non-evidentiary and can only be administered to individuals suspected of impaired driving.

As of March of this year, officers have administered more than 1,098 tests to drivers, with 566 coming back positive for at least one or more substance. Of those positives, 52% had traces of THC.

“This data gives us better insight into the prevalence of drug-impaired driving in Indiana and underscores the importance of improved education and awareness,” said Robert Duckworth, ICJI Traffic Safety Director. “Regardless of what day it is, driving while impaired by any substance is against the law and puts you and others in harm’s way.”

To keep road users safe, ICJI is asking the public to obey the rules of the road and to never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Before heading out, plan ahead by designating a sober driver or using a ride service or public transportation. Never let friends get behind the wheel if they’re impaired.

It’s also important to buckle up, avoid distractions and be on the lookout for unsafe drivers. Motorists are encouraged to report suspected impaired drivers by calling 911 or contacting their local department.

Police officers are always on high alert for signs of impairment while patrolling the road, but especially on days like 4/20.

Click here to learn more about the dangers and consequences of drug-impaired driving.