Drugged-driving reaches grim milestone

HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Drivers killed in crashes in 2015 were more likely to be on drugs, as opposed to alcohol, making this the first time drugged-driving has eclipsed drunk driving fatalities.

For AAA Connecticut, they saw this day coming.

“It doesn’t surprise me in the least that drugs, drugged driving have surpassed alcohol,” said Fran Mayko, AAA spokesperson.

In 2015, 43 percent of drivers killed in car crashes tested positive for drugs, which for the first time is a larger number than those who died that tested positive for alcohol.

“People do need to keep in mind that drugged driving isn’t just illegal drugs, but could be prescription drugs,” said Trooper Kelly Grant of Connecticut State Police.

This comes at a time when marijuana has been legalized in one form or another in at least 29 states, including Connecticut. AAA said the statistics are no coincidence. They point to a study AAA funded in Washington state, after recreational marijuana was approved there.

“The number of fatal crashes skyrocketed,” Mayko said, “more than doubled a year after marijuana was approved there.”

A Quinnipiac Poll released last week shows 60 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana and there is a growing push in Connecticut politics to allow recreational use of the drug. But unlike alcohol, there’s no reliable methods to test for marijuana impairment. For this reason and more, AAA staunchly opposes any efforts to legalize pot.

“Driving is probably one of the most dangerous things we do on a daily basis,” Mayko said. “So our first responsibility is to ourselves, our passengers, to others on the roadway.”

The politics make no difference to State Police. Any form of impairment behind the wheel is a felony and it’s their duty to police against it.

“Drugged driving and drunken driving are viewed the same in the eyes of the law,” Tpr. Grant said. “It is the same statute.”

Here in Connecticut, there were several bills aimed to legalize recreational use of marijuana, mostly for the revenue it could produce. None of those bills seem to have much chance this session and Governor Malloy remains opposed to the idea.

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