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In high gear

By REPORTER STAFF
Mercer Island Reporter Staff
March 12, 2014 · Updated 2:30 PM
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From the Huffington Post to Forbes, news outlets across the country are trumpeting the news that more Washington state drivers tested positive for marijuana when stopped by law enforcement last year — even before marijuana was legalized.

Over 700 drivers or nearly half of those stopped in the first half of 2013 and who tested positive for active marijuana, had levels high enough to lead to a drugged driving conviction under the state’s new pot laws.  Some say that Washington’s move to legalize marijuana could be related to the increase. People may see marijuana as less risky now and be more likely to use it before driving.

Counter-intuitively,  DUI arrests are down slightly and the number of fatal crashes remains flat. Yet, arrests from impaired driving due to pot use are up. But officials say that it is too early to tell how the trend will shake out. That is of little comfort. Regardless of the intoxicant involved, here are still too many impaired drivers on the road. According to the Washington State Patrol, an average of 40,000 drivers are arrested each year who are under the influence of drugs, alcohol (or perhaps an  iPhone) or some combination thereof.

This all comes as the Washington State Patrol has fewer troopers on the road.

The WSP is doing whatever they can to hire more troopers. More than 200 troopers and sergeants are eligible to retire in the next four years.

During a presentation to the press last year in Olympia, WSP Chief John Batiste looked around the room at the late middle-aged journalists assembled and said he figured most of us looked well enough to apply for a state trooper job.  We all laughed of course, but he was serious. The only age limitation is that applicants must be older than 19.5 years of age.

As the number of potentially impaired drivers on the road increase so must the number of trained law enforcement officers.

Lets make certain that money made by marijuana enterprises goes to educate those who use pot and drive and to pay for more state troopers.

 

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