Picnics. Family gatherings. Barbecues. Plenty of adult beverages and now, legal marijuana. During the long Labor Day weekend, many Americans will enjoy themselves in many different ways – some of which will hamper their ability to drive safely.
That’s where tens of thousands of law enforcement officers across the U.S. (who won’t get days off over the holiday) come in. They’ll be enforcing a nationwide crackdown on impaired drivers, spearheaded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Due to the marijuana legalization trend that is sweeping (parts of) the nation, the agency’s holiday-timed media campaigns have broadened from warnings about driving under the influence of alcohol (Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over ) to include drug-related messaging as well (Drive High, Get a DUI.)
“Almost everyone knows that driving drunk is dangerous, puts lives at risk, and can get you a DUI – but there isn’t the same awareness for drug-impaired driving,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King.
In fact, focus groups with users of marijuana show they think they’re safer drivers after using marijuana than after consuming alcohol. Many don’t think they can be charged with a DUI for driving while impaired by marijuana.
King points out that driving while impaired by drugs is illegal in every state.
“We want to encourage people to think twice before driving and to follow through by designating a sober driver, calling a cab, or using a ridesharing service,” she said.
Marijuana use may be high profile these days, but drunk driving is still an issue. Although drunk-driving-related deaths have fallen over the past 3 decades, they still claim more than 10,000 lives per year. In 2017, one in five children (14 and younger) who died in a crash, died in a crash involving alcohol.
The NHTSA is partnering with Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD), the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and is in the midst of a $13 million media campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of impaired driving and buttress law enforcement efforts. The campaign will run through the Labor Day holiday weekend - one of the deadliest times on U.S. roads.