Marijuana is legal, but driving intoxicated is not

The Eagle/Rylan Boggs Stock Image Police Chief Richard Gray John Day Police Department Taken Thursday, Sept. 15

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, marijuana and other impairing drugs.

“Impaired driving is completely preventable,” said Chuck Hayes, chair of the Governor’s Advisory Committee on DUII. “All it takes is a little planning.”

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.

In years past, Oregon and other states were primarily concerned with drivers under the influence of alcohol. Now marijuana has also become a major concern.

“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 said.

He 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.

Oregon law enforcement agencies will be using Oregon Department of Transporation-administered grants to add extra patrols throughout the state looking for drivers impaired by any substance, legal or illegal. Dec. 16 through Jan. 1.

Oregon State Police stayed busy during the 2015 holiday period. According to Drug Recognition Experts Coordinator Sgt. Evan Sether, OSP made 156 DUII arrests.

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

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