Don’t drive high, law enforcement warns
March 30, 2017
RENO — Buzzed driving is drunk driving.
That's the message the Nevada Department of Public Safety and the Nevada Highway Patrol want to convey to drivers as Nevadans adapt to the first year of legalized recreational marijuana.
"The actual definition of impairment doesn't change if it's alcohol or marijuana," NHP Trooper Duncan Dauber said Wednesday at a Reno event aimed to show the dangers of driving while impaired. "If you feel the effects of it, don't drive."
The state agencies partnered with Need 2 Speed, an indoor go-kart facility in Reno, to demonstrate the effects of impaired driving. Participants at the event were invited to drive go-karts "sober," then drive the karts wearing goggles simulating marijuana impairment.
"Everything seems kind of magnified," said Need 2 Speed employee Derrick Ruiz, who said the goggles threw off his depth perception. Others who looked through the goggles noticed distances were harder to judge.
Although the goggles distort the way objects appear, they do not impact reaction speeds or cognitive skills, Dauber said.
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"When you're legally impaired, you're not thinking about that," he said.
A total of 330 fatalities were reported in Nevada in 2016, including two in Douglas County. As of Monday, 67 fatalities have been reported in Nevada.
"That's four crashes and six fatalities above where we were last year," said NHP Lt. Kevin Honea.
When looking for buzzed drivers, law enforcement officials look for the same things they would look for in a drunk driver, he said. Signs include inability to maintain a lane, delayed reactions when stopping for a red light or a stop sign and failure to maintain a steady speed.
"We are prepared for an upswing in DUIs," Dauber said.
It is sometimes challenging to spot people who are impaired because "people who use cell phones exhibit many of the same characteristics," Honea said.
The rules for recreational marijuana in vehicles are similar to those for alcohol — users must be 21 or over and it cannot be used in the car. Nevada drivers can't have more than an ounce of marijuana, Dauber said.