Press Release

Press Release Cannabis and Alcohol Users Tapped for State's Impaired Driving Campaign

Participated in Research, Featured in TV Spots
For immediate release:
8/14/2019
  • Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
  • Office of Grants and Research

Media Contact for Cannabis and Alcohol Users Tapped for State's Impaired Driving Campaign

Jeff Larason, Highway Safety Division Director

Press release

Boston, MA The Baker-Polito Administration today kicked off an impaired driving campaign designed to reach men age 18 to 34, who are the most likely to be behind the wheel in impaired driving crashes. The campaign, titled “Wisdom,” was informed by focus groups made up of cannabis and alcohol users and conducted by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security’s (EOPSS) Office of Grants and Research (OGR). The feedback was used to create TV spots featuring interviews of real people who were willing to share their perceptions about driving after consuming cannabis, alcohol, or other drugs.

“The height of the summer travel season is an opportunity for us to remind motorists about the dangers of impaired driving,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Research and data show that many people do not understand or believe the link between using marijuana and impaired driving, so this campaign is designed specifically to address these myths.”

“People may think they can drive safely using cannabis, alcohol, or other drugs – but the research just doesn’t support it and we want to make sure everyone is staying as safe as possible,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito.

The TV spots were filmed in Boston in late July. Adult cannabis users talked about their personal experiences with, and thoughts on, driving dangers.  Their discussions were edited into :30 public service announcements that will air through August.

“Any kind of impairment, whether it’s from alcohol, marijuana, an illegal substance, over the counter or even legally prescribed medication can affect your ability to drive safely,” said Thomas Turco, Secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). “Responsible people don’t endanger others by driving impaired.”

The focus groups, conducted in Boston in June, included adults age 18 and up with varying levels of cannabis and alcohol use. The research showed that:

  • Many did not recognize that cannabis can impair driving safety.
  • Participants might drive while high, but would not watch their children or grandchildren, use power tools, or attend a job interview.
  • The few who would not feel comfortable driving after using marijuana were older and female.
  • The majority of participants felt that driving while using marijuana was common.
  • The law was not considered a deterrent to driving after using marijuana.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol holds greater social stigma than driving after using marijuana.
  • Most reported negative effects (being too high) when using edibles and combining marijuana with alcohol

“Most of the time, driving is uneventful and safe. But in those moments when quick reactions and clear judgment are needed, it is critical that drivers are sober,” said Angela F.F. Davis, Assistant Undersecretary for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice for EOPSS.

The state's campaign is part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over (DSOGPO) effort. EOPSS has provided $433,000 in funding to 141 local police departments to conduct impaired driving enforcement patrols at high incident locations from July to September. The State Police will conduct sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols as part of an existing $1.1 million EOPSS grant award.

EOPSS is also working to increase the number of law enforcement representatives who are trained in the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) programs, which teach officers to detect drug impairment in drivers. There are currently 157 officers who are certified DREs and 1,832 who are ARIDE trained.

Massachusetts Data (2013-2017):

  • Marijuana was the most prevalent drug found in drivers involved in fatal crashes.
  • 11 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes were found with both alcohol and drugs in their system.
  • 78 percent of impaired drivers in fatal crashes were men.
  • 35 percent of drunk drivers involved in a fatal crash were 21-29 years old.
  • The number of drivers involved in a fatal crash who were alcohol-impaired (BAC .08+) and had drugs in their system increased by 63 percent (35 to 57).
  • From 2016 to 2017, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities decreased by 19 percent (148 to 120).

National Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers.  In 2017, there were 10,874 people killed in these preventable crashes. In fact, on average, more than 10,000 people have died each year (2013 to 2017) in drunk-driving crashes. To put it in perspective, that’s equal to about 20 jumbo jets crashing each year, with no survivors.  
  • In 2017, one person was killed every 48 minutes by a drunk driver on our nation’s roads.
  • In 2017, almost one in five children (14 and younger) killed in traffic crashes were killed in drunk-driving crashes.  Fifty-four percent of the time, it was the child’s driver who was drunk.
  • Drugs were present in 43 percent of the fatally-injured drivers with a known test result in 2015, more frequently than alcohol was present.
  • NHTSA’s 2013–2014 roadside survey found drugs in 22 percent of all drivers both on weekend nights and on weekdays.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects—slows reaction times, impairs cognitive performance, and makes it more difficult for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane.
  • Mixing alcohol and marijuana may dramatically produce effects greater than either drug on its own.

Data Links:

GHSA Drug-Impaired Driving – Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States

What You Need to Know About Marijuana Use and Driving

The Effect of Cannabis Compared with Alcohol on Driving

Does Marijuana Use Affect Driving?

Driving with a Marijuana High: How Dangerous Is It?

GHSA Drug-Impaired Driving – 2018

***Media Notes***

Impaired and distracted crashes are not “accidents.” We urge media to follow the AP Stylebook, which suggests avoiding the word “accident” in reference to impaired or negligent crashes.

Please ask law enforcement representatives about the use of seat belts in all crashes being reported on and include in any coverage.

To view the Highway Safety Division’s (HSD) “Wisdom” TV ad, or for more information about the HSD’s educational campaigns, go to www.mass.gov/DriveSober.

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Media Contact for Cannabis and Alcohol Users Tapped for State's Impaired Driving Campaign

Executive Office of Public Safety and Security 

EOPSS is responsible for the policy development and budgetary oversight of its secretariat agencies, independent programs, and several boards which aid in crime prevention, homeland security preparedness, and ensuring the safety of residents and visitors in the Commonwealth.

Office of Grants and Research 

The Office of Grants and Research oversees the distribution and administration of grants, and conducts research, related to criminal justice, anti-drug and violence prevention education, law enforcement and traffic safety. The Office is divided into four divisions: Justice and Prevention, Highway Safety, Homeland Security and Research and Policy Analysis, which maintains the Massachusetts Statistical Analysis Center.
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