We know buzzed driving is drunk driving, but what about driving while drug-impaired? In West Virginia, it is illegal to drive while impaired by any substance, and this includes drugs. Leading up to and including the Labor Day weekend, the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the annual Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over high visibility enforcement mobilization.
This year, the GHSP’s impaired driving messaging efforts are focusing on drugged driving with the If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive High, Get a DUI impaired driving awareness campaign, which runs from Aug. 18 through Sept. 6, 2021. In support of the law enforcement community’s dedication to protecting the lives of residents in their communities, you’ll see officers working together leading up to and including the Labor Day holiday weekend to take all impaired drivers, including drug-impaired drivers, off the roads. These expanded efforts to protect against impaired driving will be conducted in a fair and equitable way.
According to NHTSA, between 2009 and 2018, of those drivers killed in crashes and tested for marijuana, the presence of marijuana had nearly doubled. In 2018, 46% of drivers who were killed in crashes and were tested for drugs, tested positive. This is why it’s so important we spread this lifesaving message: If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive High, Get a DUI.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re impaired by alcohol or drugs, do the right thing and don’t put yourself or other West Virginia road users at risk. Never drive impaired,” Gov. Jim Justice said.
It doesn’t matter what term you use: If a person is feeling a little high, buzzed, stoned, wasted, or drunk, he or she should not get behind the wheel. Think driving while high won’t affect you? You’re wrong. It has been proven that THC can slow reaction times, impair cognitive performance, and make it more difficult for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane.
“One of the many ways law enforcement officers serve our communities here in West Virginia is by keeping citizens safe. Many people don’t realize that enforcing traffic laws – which includes impaired driving laws – is part of keeping communities safe,” said GHSP Director Bob Tipton.
“The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter if it’s drugs, alcohol, or prescription medications, if it has impaired you, you should not be driving, period. We want everyone to enjoy a safe and happy Labor Day holiday weekend. We ask that you commit to never driving impaired. Keep yourself and your neighbors safe during not only the Labor Day holiday weekend, but every day,” Tipton added.
“Driving impaired is a choice, and it’s a bad choice that could have deadly consequences,” Tipton continued. “If you’ve used an impairing substance, make the right choice and find a sober ride home. Keep yourself and those in your community safe; otherwise, if you drive high, you’ll get a DUI.”
West Virginia has been a Drug Evaluation Classification (DEC) state since 2013. That allowed for law enforcement officers to have the opportunity to become a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Officers who are DREs are specially trained to conduct detailed evaluations of individuals suspected of driving while impaired by illegal drugs or impairing prescription medications. DREs are an integral part of keeping drugged drivers off West Virginia’s roadways.
Violating West Virginia’s drug-impaired-driving laws will lead to a DUI, which includes fines and possibly jail.
Remember these safety tips as you prepare for the holiday, and spread the message to your friends and family members:
- It is illegal to drive while impaired by any substance, whether illegal or prescribed. If you have used an impairing substance such as marijuana or certain prescription medications, do not drive. Passengers should never ride with an impaired driver. If you think a driver may be impaired, do not get in the car.
- If you have used an impairing substance, get a sober driver to safely drive you to your destination. Like drunk driving, it is essential that drug-impaired drivers refrain from driving a vehicle. It is never okay to drive while impaired by any substance.
- If available, use your community’s sober ride program.
- Do you have a friend who is about to drive while impaired by drugs? Take the keys away and arrange to get them home safely. Don’t worry about offending someone – they’ll thank you later.
- If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.
Please join us in sharing the lifesaving message, If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drug-impaired-driving. For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit www.dmv.wv.gov/ghsp or call 304-926-2509.