44% increase in impaired driving fatal roadway fatalities since 2019
With a 44% increase in fatal crashes linked to impaired drivers since 2019, the Highway Safety Office at the Colorado Department of Transportation recently launched a Drug Recognition Expert training program for law enforcement. The DRE School is a nine-day intensive training that provides law enforcement officers the knowledge, skills, and abilities to detect vehicle operators who are impaired by a variety of drugs. Officers learn how to document the impairment and present a case in a courtroom setting on drug-impaired driving.
The training took place from April 4 to April 14 at the Castle Rock Fire/PD Training Center. Eighteen law enforcement officers from communities across the state participated. The goal of the program is to train law enforcement officers to successfully identify drug impairment and accurately determine the category of drugs causing such impairment.
In 2021, there were 253 people killed by a suspected impaired driver in Colorado, which is 36% of all people killed in traffic crashes that year.
“The officers who are participating in this training are to be commended for their commitment to traffic safety and making our roads safer from impaired drivers,” said Darrell Lingk, Director of the CDOT Highway Safety Office. “With one-third of deaths on our roadways attributed to impaired drivers, drug recognition experts are critical to reducing that number and ultimately getting to our goal of zero deaths.”
While alcohol remains the most common substance found in fatal crashes involving an impaired driver, there is a concerning uptick in fatal crashes that involve other drugs, such as cannabis. In 2020, it is estimated that 26% of drivers involved in fatal crashes and that were drug tested had multiple impairing substances detected in their toxicology results, according to fatal data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice published a report in January 2022 analyzing more than 26,000 impaired driving cases that were filed in Colorado in 2019, following the cases from arrest to final court outcome. The DCJ report found:
- 45% of drivers tested positive for multiple substances. The most common combination of drugs detected was alcohol and Delta 9-THC, which is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis and may indicate recent use. The second most common pairing was alcohol combined with other drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, sedatives and opioids.
- 68% of individuals with detected Delta-9 THC also had some other substance present. Alcohol was the most common co-occurring substance.