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Group trying to figure out role of pot in impaired-driving accidents

Group trying to figure out role of pot in impaired-driving accidents

A panel of experts from the cannabis, public safety and transportation industries gathered at Colorado State University-Pueblo Thursday to discuss misconceptions and discuss the dangers of cannabis-impaired driving.

The discussion was the first public happening of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s new public safety campaign called The Cannabis Conversation, which is seeking the input of Coloradans to identify solutions to a problem that contributed to 77 fatal car wrecks in 2016 alone.

According to CDOT Communications Manager Sam Cole, the department previously orchestrated ad campaigns to get the word out about cannabis-impaired driving, which he said were successful in notifying the public of the dangers and legal repercussions of driving under the influence of marijuana but seemingly did little to curb citizens’ behavior.

 So instead of another ad campaign to speak to cannabis users, CDOT decided to host The Cannabis Conversation in order to facilitate a conversation in which Coloradans could weigh in.

Some of the primary topics discussed at the meeting included how marijuana consumption effects drivers, current law enforcement methods for detecting drugged driving, and ongoing research into tools that measure impairment.

All of the panelists agreed that marijuana consumption can cause impairment that makes it dangerous to operate a motor vehicle, but noted that because marijuana has not been researched as extensively as other impairment-causing drugs, such as alcohol, it is unclear to what extent.

The lack of research is attributable to the relatively new status of legalized recreational marijuana in Colorado, and panelist Kristi Kelly, the executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said a number of research studies on marijuana impairment are being conducted in the Centennial State.

Cole expressed that though research has not yet identified the extent to which marijuana causes driving impairment, studies have shown that being under the influence of marijuana does impact perceptions of distance, speed and time.

“We would all agree that at a certain level, yes, marijuana does impair your ability to drive,” Cole said.

“I think where everything gets squishy is in the research addressing at what level. Does somebody have to smoke a whole joint? Eat a whole edible? Or would they be fine just having a hit or two off a joint and they can still drive?

“Science just really hasn’t met us there, so we’re still having this discussion, both in the scientific and research community. Meanwhile, CDOT is really digging deep into this data to understand a lot more about these crashes that involved somebody who was high.”

A variety of factors play into how impaired each individual driver may be after consuming marijuana, including the amount consumed, time elapsed since consumption and the individual’s tolerance.

Because marijuana can be detected in a person’s blood long after they’ve consumed it, panelist Jack Reed, a statistical analyst for the Colorado Department of Public Safety, detailed that the state enforces existing driving laws by first identifying impairment through behavioral cues and later testing for a specific type of THC called Delta-9.

Colorado law dictates a person cannot legally drive if any more than 5 nanograms of Delta-9 THC is detected in his or her blood and Reed said Delta-9 is different from other types of THC in that it is usually only detectable in significant quantities when marijuana has been consumed within a short time of being tested, typically around two hours.

While research surrounding marijuana impairment and its effect on a citizen’s ability to drive continues to progress, panelist Matt Herrera, manager at the Pueblo Starbuds Dispensary, said he advises his customers to simply treat marijuana consumption the same way they do other impairment-causing drugs.

“There’s a misconception when it comes to alcohol and marijuana that a lot of people think marijuana is way less of a problem and it’s not,” he said.

“Even if the number is one marijuana-impaired driving fatality, that is one too many,” Kelly said.

“So compared to alcohol for example, the numbers are significantly lower than alcohol. But in our opinion, one is still too many. So our goal, and why we work with CDOT … is because we are fully committed to educating folks on the road so that they can make the right choices beforehand.”

Man hospitalized after crashing into school bus, bicyclist, tree

Driver suspected of driving under the influence, police say

  • A man was hospitalized with serious injuries after his car collided with a bus, bicyclist and tree in short succession on Bollinger Road in West San Jose on March 12, 2018. The driver is suspected of driving under the influence. (Courtesy of Don Draper)

A San Jose man suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol was rushed to a hospital Monday morning with life-threatening injuries after being involved in a crash with a school bus and bicyclist, according to San Jose police.

The driver, who was not immediately arrested because of the severity of his injuries, was listed in critical but stable condition Tuesday, according to San Jose police Sgt. Enrique Garcia.

San Jose police said they responded to a hit-and-run crash at 7:11 a.m. on Bollinger Road at Lawrence Expressway. A San Jose man, who has not been identified, was driving a red Acura westbound on Bollinger when he collided with a school bus also traveling on Bollinger, east of Lawrence Expressway.

The driver of the Acura continued westbound on Bollinger and hit a bicyclist, according to police.  The driver did not stop and continued on Bollinger, past the intersection at Lawrence Expressway, and crashed into a tree.

The driver of the Acura was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries, according to police.

San Jose man hospitalized after crashing into school bus, bicyclist, tree

Coroner resigns after he was arrested for DUI at scene

Three people were injured and a 19-year-old Las Animas woman was killed

Around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, 16-year-old Cutter Nicholas of Las Animas was driving a 1996 Ford pickup truck with three friends in the vehicle, according to a news release from the Colorado State Patrol. None of the people in the truck were wearing seatbelts when the male driver lost control of the truck while driving north on Bent County Road 12 just north of County Road JJ.

The truck began to rotate and heading off the left side of the roadway, the release said. The truck hit an embankment and rolled onto the roof. A juvenile was ejected from the car but survived with moderate injuries. The driver and remaining passenger were transported to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Danielle Gonzales, 19, of Las Animas, was killed in the crash.

When the coroner arrived on the scene, troopers began to suspect that he was drunk, Colorado State Patrol spokesman Trooper Joshua Lewis said Monday.

Roberts was arrested on suspicion of DUI. Lewis said Roberts would have been given a breathalyzer test but said he didn’t have the results. KRDO reported that Roberts blood-alcohol level was 0.087, higher than the 0.08 at which a person is considered to be driving under the influence in Colorado.

Bent County coroner resigns after he was arrested for DUI at the scene of a fatal car crash

Michigan football staffer was barefoot, bit lab tech after drunk driving arrest

Fergus Connolly, 40, also told an officer he would “put him in a wheelchair,” according to the police report.

Connolly has not been formally charged in the incident. Police say they are waiting for laboratory results, which could take several weeks.

An Ann Arbor police report obtained through the Freedom of Information Act details the allegations against Connolly: that he crashed an SUV – one that may have been a university vehicle – while drunk driving, was combative, shouted profanities, refused a preliminary breath test and denied he was drunk.

Michigan football staffer suspected of drunken driving

Connolly’s Ann Arbor-based attorney, Joseph Simon, in an email on Wednesday, March 14, declined to comment on the police report before formal charges are filed.

Connolly joined Michigan’s athletic department in 2016 and has spent the last two seasons as the football team’s director of performance. He added director of Michigan’s football operations to his job responsibilities prior to the 2017 season.

There had been no change to Connolly’s job status with the university as of Tuesday evening, Michigan football spokesman Dave Ablauf said. Ablauf has not seen the police report and would not comment on the allegations to The Ann Arbor News.

Connolly was found shoeless – his feet bloody – and incoherent at Second and Madison streets shortly after a reported hit-and-run crash at First and Mosley streets on the city’s West Side about 11:50 a.m. March 5, according to the police report.

A witness to the crash – which forced a parked Ford vehicle into a driveway – said the driver of the Chevrolet Tahoe involved “looked so angry” before driving away, according to the police report.

Shortly after, police found Connolly standing barefoot in a snow bank, according to the report. He was not dressed appropriately for the cold day and was leaning against a tree speaking on his cellphone, the report said.

Officers on scene noted his speech was slurred and he didn’t have a wallet or identification, according to the police report. Police had to look him up on the internet to confirm his identity.

Connolly had injuries to an arm, his stomach, and his feet, and Ann Arbor police Officer Garrett Marshall said in his report that Connolly was unaware of where he’d come from.

“He was disorientated and smelled of intoxicants,” according to Officer Stephanie Kjos-Warner’s report. “His eyes were glassed over, as he stared at (the responding officer) and handed his cell phone to her.”

Connolly had been speaking by phone to a University of Michigan police officer named “Goshi,” who told Kjos-Warner he’d been encouraging Connolly to turn himself in, police said.

Teresa Oesterle, deputy director for the Michigan Division of Public Safety & Security, said in an email that the department has an Officer Goci – identified as Milot Goci in UM records – but did not immediately have information on an exchange with Connolly.

Connolly’s Tahoe was found damaged and missing its front tire near Armen Cleaners on nearby Ashley Street. A witness there told police she and her father-in-law saw a shoeless white man with no coat get out of the driver’s seat.

He responded, “I did it, myself!” when asked what happened, the witness said.

A University of Michigan vehicle ownership card was found in the Tahoe, though the license plate on the vehicle did not match that on the card.

Connolly was verbally abusive toward officers and repeatedly told them, “Do not do this to me,” and “F**k off”, according to the report.

He also resisted police during arrest and at the station, where he repeatedly fell from a bench, police said. He was restrained to a chair after taking “an open hand swing,” striking an officer on the arm, Marshall said in his report.

Connolly was later taken to the University of Michigan emergency room for injuries to his feet and his apparent intoxication, according to the report.

There, he assured police he would remain calm before trying to get out of the hospital bed and swinging at Marshall, according to the report.

He was then handcuffed to the bed, but sat up and grabbed a security officer “by the throat,” according to the report.

Portions of the altercation with police are redacted from the report, but it states hospital security personnel used four-point restraints to subdue Connolly. While in the restraint, Connolly bit a UM emergency technician on the arm, grazing her skin with his teeth, the report said. The technician said the bite was not hard and didn’t break the skin.

Neither the security officer nor the technician reported injuries, and Connolly was eventually sedated.

“Throughout the entire contact with Connolly he refused to give his name, any statement about where he was prior to us finding him and if he had been drinking and driving,” Marshall stated in his report.

Connolly was eventually released to the hospital, said Ann Arbor police Lt. Matthew Lige.

Laboratory results could take several weeks, but police intend to seek misdeamenor charges against Connolly, Lige said.

Connolly is the second football staff member under head coach Jim Harbaugh to be arrested on suspected drunken driving after Jim Minick, Michigan’s then associate athletic director for football, in 2015.

Before Michigan, Connolly spent two seasons, 2014-16, as director of elite performance for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, including one season under Harbaugh. He’s also done consultant work for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, the NBA’s New York Knicks, the English Premier League and Australian professional rugby teams.

Harbaugh wrote the forward for “Game Changer: The Art of Sports Science,” a book Connolly released in 2017 that pitches the idea evidence-based analysis and athlete-focused training are the path to success in sport, not necessarily big budgets or a heavy emphasis on advanced statistics.

Connolly made $255,000 in 2017, according to UM’s annual salary report.