"Drive high, get a DUI": Missouri launches first 420 drugged-driving enforcement campaign

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo -- The number of people driving under the influence of drugs has increased over the years, so much that law enforcement is directing its attention to the specific threat this weekend.

Saturday is April 20th or 4/20. MoDOT says it is a day known for cannabis enthusiasts to smoke marijuana. But law enforcement is trying to make sure that drivers who have been doing drugs, don't drive.

Sgt. Jason Pace with the Missouri State Highway Patrol says it is something troopers see on the roads everyday.

"They may be smoking marijuana, or on certain types of prescription drugs and drinking at the same time, so that is a combined affect." said Pace.

He says that alcohol and marijuana have a similar affect on drivers.

"The delayed reaction time, the intermittent speeds, swerving, things of that nature. So they are very characteristic." Pace explained.

The Missouri Department of Transportation says that last year 78 people were killed and 142 more were seriously hurt in crashes that had at least one drug-impaired driver.

"It is actually becoming more and more prevalent." said Pace.

The Highway Patrol also has specialists who can test for drug impairment during traffic stops.

"We stop them, and recognize there may be more on board, it may not just be alcohol, but there may be some sort of impairment with drugs. So from that point we go through that standardized field sobriety test, and then if we want to measure it a little bit further, and call in what is called our drug recognition expert, and we can specifically do tests to see what type of drug they are on." Pace explained.

And it is not just the illegal drugs and alcohol that could get you a ticket.

"You may receive a prescription, and you are legally taking a prescribed medicine, but often times people overlook the sticker on the side that says do not operate machinery while taking this. Because a lot of times until your body gets used to that prescribed medicine, it is going to alter things." said Pace.

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April 20, also referred to as 420 by cannabis enthusiasts as code for smoking marijuana, has quickly spread as a celebratory day across the country. While cannabis is now legalized for recreational and medicinal use in many states, it is still illegal in all states to drive under the influence of it.

Law enforcement will be out in full force April 19-20 to crack down on drugged driving offenders. “Driving drug-impaired or riding with someone who is drug-impaired is not worth the risk,” said Jon Nelson, MoDOT assistant to the state highway safety and traffic engineer. “Not only do you risk killing yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for driving while substance-impaired can be significant. The consequences are serious and real.”

According to preliminary 2018 data, 78 people were killed and 142 more were seriously injured in Missouri traffic crashes that involved at least one drug-impaired driver. The Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety reminds motorists of the various options available to get everyone home safe. Designating a sober driver, calling a cab or using public transportation are just a few of those options. Remember, if you feel different, you drive different.

“We encourage all drivers to take responsibility and make smart choices so that everyone gets home safe,” said Nelson. “Drive sober, buckle up and phone down.” Besides driving completely sober from alcohol and drugs, motorists are also advised to put their cell phones down while driving and always buckle up – everyone, every trip, every time.

To learn more, visit the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety website at savemolives.com, or follow us on social media at Save MO Lives.