In post-pandemic Connecticut, traveling our state and local roads has become a more dangerous proposition.
Whether that is due to the ill-conceived police accountability bill that has handcuffed law enforcement and thinned police ranks, or as a result of a new commercial marijuana market — or a combination thereof — there is no disputing that our roadways are less safe now than they were previously. Throw in poor driving habits adopted during the pandemic, and we have a recipe for disaster.
A few bills proposed to address the dangers associated with traveling on and across our roadways headline the debate on road safety this year in the legislature.
The push to make roads safer by lowering the threshold for blood-alcohol content (BAC) levels from .08 to.05 for drivers is a noble pursuit for a worthy cause but it misses the mark. Utah is the only state with such a low threshold, which matches the BAC level for airline pilots.
It is also at odds with a prior decision to legalize marijuana and a series of efforts since then to grow its commercial market.
The notable difference between driving under the influence of marijuana versus alcohol is that state government has decided that the latter is an inevitable facet of a culture shift while the former calls for more punitive policy clamps.
Law enforcement officers, since the 2021 legalization law, are prevented from pulling a car over in which the driver or passengers are suspected of smoking marijuana or driving under the influence of it, even based on a pervasive smell or emanating smoke from the vehicle. We’re told that is not probable cause.
Not to be outdone, many legislators who supported the push for pot are now trying to lower the BAC level from .08 to .05.
In fact, hidden in a recent CT Mirror article was data showing a 31 percent increase in motor vehicle collision deaths in Connecticut from 2021 to 2022, the first year of the state’s commercial marijuana culture. This increase was the largest year-to-year in over a decade. This evidences the dangerous trend that will only grow worse without proper corrective action.
I contest that Connecticut — with its high volume of wrong-way driving accidents resulting in 23 fatalities between 2020 and 2022 — should bolster its investment in educating drivers and passengers about road safety.
This could be lifesaving for our youngest and upcoming generation of drivers, who will be forced to wrestle between competing narratives from their state and local leaders on driving under the influence.
Let’s be clear where we stand on road and driving safety. Let’s fix past legislation that enables driving under the influence of marijuana and pump the brakes on a commercialized market which targets children. Let’s equip law enforcement to protect drivers by investing more in education, not less.
This op-ed appeared in the Stamford Advocate. You can find it here: https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/opinion/article/opinion-making-roads-safer-in-post-pandemic-ct-18132164.php?fbclid=IwAR3wx4QxBWtY9ZYQR7BU-o11oqSUSBK8w4CBkehUrT4EA-kUPFoIcd2PjRs