Recreational marijuana is legal; driving under the influence of it is not

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Dec. 5, 2016

For more information: DUII Program Manager Dan Estes, 503-986-4183 or Advisory Committee Chair Chuck Hayes, 503-585-0055


Governor Brown and Governor’s DUII Advisory Committee members offer important reminder for “3D Month”

SALEM – Members of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on DUII are reminding motorists this holiday season about the dangers of driving under the influence, which includes alcohol and other impairing drugs, such as marijuana.

“Impaired driving is completely preventable,” said Chuck Hayes, chair of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on DUII. “All it takes is a little planning. We want the public to remember that it’s a choice. Drivers have a responsibility to drive sober and to not use impairing substances if they intend to drive. We want to keep people from making a poor choice that harms others and themselves.”

Last year over the Christmas holiday, four people died in crashes and one was alcohol-involved. Over the past five years during the official holiday, 14 people died in crashes and half of those were alcohol-involved crashes. New Year’s is even more tragic: in five years, 29 people died during the holiday; four of those were alcohol-involved crashes. Some of these crashes have weather as a major contributor – but because dangerous weather is always a possibility in December in Oregon, being sober and rested before you get behind the wheel is even more important.

In years past, Oregon and other states were primarily concerned with drivers under the influence of alcohol. That continues to be a major concern, but now marijuana has also become a major concern, especially with the legalization of marijuana in Oregon.

“We know marijuana affects reaction time, short-term memory, hand-eye coordination, concentration and perception of time and distance – all of which are vital functions for driving safely.” Hayes also cautioned people that combining alcohol with marijuana is even more dangerous, multiplying the adverse effects on a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Law enforcement will be patrolling for safety

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration continues to provide national attention to promote impaired driving prevention campaigns with the slogan “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” from Dec. 16 – Jan. 1. Oregon law enforcement agencies will be using ODOT-administered grants to add extra patrols throughout the state looking for drivers impaired by any substance, legal or illegal.

Oregon State Police stayed busy during the 2015 holiday period (Dec. 16 – Jan. 3). According to Drug Recognition Experts Coordinator Sgt. Evan Sether, OSP make 156 DUII arrests.

drive sober

“We investigated at least 724 crashes during that time frame,” Sether said. “Many of them involved some sort of impairment.”

Governor Kate Brown has proclaimed December as “3D Month,” which stands for Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month, in order to encourage conversations about making smart choices during the upcoming holiday season.

“Residents and communities in Oregon need to continue to demand that friends and family members be responsible, avoid driving under the influence of any intoxicants, and condemn irresponsible and life-threatening driving choices,” Governor Brown wrote in the proclamation.

Safety advocates in Oregon continue to gather facts about how marijuana, now that it is legal to use recreationally, affects driving, according to Dan Estes, ODOT’s Impaired Driving Program manager.

“There continues to be this myth that marijuana doesn’t affect a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle, but evidence shows that it does,” Estes said. “We need to continue to increase awareness about that and prevent impaired driving.”

Oregon has 219 police officers statewide that are trained as Drug Recognition Experts. In addition, Oregon continues to increase basic drug-detection training to police officers through the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) program. According to Sgt. Sether, more than 980 police officers have been trained in ARIDE since 2009.

Things to keep in mind

The Governor’s Advisory Committee on DUII, tasked with helping raise awareness of the dangers of DUII and getting communities involved in reducing DUII, hopes that Oregonians, like those who don’t drink and drive, will consider the tragic consequences that can occur when alcohol, marijuana, and other impairing substances and driving are mixed. The Governor’s Advisory Committee on DUII recommends that drivers keep these tips in mind and keep the holidays safe and happy:

  • Even one drink can your impair judgment and increase the risk of getting arrested for DUII, or worse, the risk of having a crash.
  • If you will be drinking alcohol or using other drugs, do not plan on driving. Plan ahead and designate a sober driver.
  • If you have been drinking or using drugs that may impair your driving ability, do not drive. Call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.

Be a responsible party host

Oregon Liquor Control Commission offers practical tips for a happy holiday party-hosting, including intervention techniques if someone is getting out of hand.

Need help getting a ride?

  • If you’ve got a smartphone, a smart ride may not be far away! Download the SaferRide app so you can easily and quickly catch a ride if you are impaired. Learn more.
  • Program taxi or other ride provider numbers into your phone. Then push one button for a sober ride, and you may save your life or someone else’s.

Be a responsible driver!

  • Put away the distractions.
  • Space out – don’t be a “tailgator” – it’s the law.
  • Be on the lookout for bicyclists and pedestrians.

And have a happy and safe holiday season.