Police, lawmakers concerned about increase in drugged-driving deaths
KALAMAZOO, Mich. —
The Michigan Department of Transportation said the number of drugged-driving deaths, including those involving marijuana, are on the rise.
State lawmakers and police say they're concerned the upcoming vote to potentially legalize recreational marijuana could put even more drugged drivers on the road.
According to police documents, Amber Collige, 33, admitted to detectives she smoked a half a bowl of marijuana early one July morning. Police said she hit and killed 5-year-old Blake Huffman 12 hours later as he rode his bike near his house in Wayland.
According to blood results referenced in the police report, Collige had 1 nanogram per milliliter of THC in her system at the time of the crash. She has been charged with operating under the influence causing death.
Van Buren County Sheriff Sgt. Kyle Romeo said, “Whatever the scenario is, your reaction times are going to slowed down.”
Michigan is one a handful of states where it's illegal to have any amount of the drug in your body while operating a motor vehicle and that won't change, even if the recreational marijuana proposal passes, but lawmakers have other concerns.
“This is not safe stuff. It could be 20-30 more times powerful. It was a whole new drug.” Sen. Rick Jones said, “I think it will affect driving. Accidents in Colorado are up.”
According to Colorado Department of Transportation, fatal crashes involving marijuana have nearly doubled since pot was legalized there in 2014.
Colorado does allow users to legally have up to 5 nanograms per milliliter of TCH in their system, but even with Michigan's zero tolerance law, Romeo expects an uptick of trouble..
He said, “I would expect more crashes, impaired driving, drunk driving, under the influence of drug arrests, more fatalities for sure.”
Michigan state police have been using a roadside testing program in select counties, including Berrien and Kent.
The kits test for marijuana and other drugs orally and provide for more immediate results for law enforcement.
The results are not currently admissible in court, but the pilot program should wrap up early November.