Woman had drugs in system in fatal Interstate crash

Amanda Runtz

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