A new study published Thursday morning by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association shows drugged driving is on the rise.
Although the study notes drug presence doesn’t imply impairment, the study highlights the trend Colorado State troopers are noticing, too: more drivers on the road under the influence of drugs as opposed to alcohol.
Trooper Scott Wermuth has been with Colorado State Patrol for two years now.
"Because that’s after the passage of amendment 63 and the legalization of marijuana," Wermuth said.
"This is the environment that I know."
Part of his job is preventing unsafe driving on the road.
In many cases, the drivers he’s pulled over have had drugs in their system.
"Last year, I was the primary officer on slightly more than 25 impaired driving cases," Wermuth said.
"In about half of those cases, drugs were involved in some form or another."
And these aren’t isolated incidents.
GHSA’s study shows a 16 percent spike in drivers killed in crashes testing positive for drugs like opioids and marijuana between 2006 and 2016.
And they’re actually seeing a three percent dip within the same time frame for alcohol.
"I smell marijuana in a vehicle far more frequently than I smell alcohol in a vehicle," Wermuth pointed out.
Colorado State Patrol data for January through March of 2018 compared to 2017 shows impaired driving citations for marijuana and controlled substances have gone up by two cases and marijuana-only related citations have gone up 19 percent.
"All of these different things can affect a person’s ability to drive and so we try to figure out why somebody’s acting the way they are."
Despite drugs playing a bigger role in citations and crashes, Wermuth says whether it be alcohol, marijuana, opioids or any other substance, it’s best to stay away from the steering wheel and avoid getting pulled over.
"All I can do is my best to try to keep people safe by getting these people off the road."