Vail Daily editorial: Pot use, population growth factors in road danger
August 29, 2017
As of Monday, the Colorado Department of Transportation reports that 378 people have died on state roads so far this year. That isn't good, but we're on track to have a somewhat less deadly year than 2016, when 608 people died in traffic accidents.
Still, the accident data is troubling, and indicative of a couple of disturbing trends.
The first, reported recently by The Denver Post, is a sharp rise in marijuana use by those involved in fatal accidents. It's still unclear what the exact effect of marijuana use had in those accidents — marijuana can show up in the bloodstream long after its intoxicating effects have faded. Still, the numbers add up to yet another element in what remains a somewhat Wild West atmosphere in the wake of state voters legalizing weed in 2012.
No matter what further research shows, the fact is that more people are using marijuana and then driving. That's not good. People need to view marijuana the same way as they view alcohol — a substance that impairs the ability to drive well and safely.
Another factor is our state's rapid growth.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Colorado's population has grown by more than 500,000 people since 2010. Most of those new residents have settled along the Front Range, which goes a long way toward explaining why traffic on Interstate 25 between Fort Collins and Colorado Springs can no longer be described without using profanity.
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A number of those new residents are also using Interstate 70, our region's Main Street, on the weekends.
In a recent Facebook post, former Vail Daily reporter and current automotive journalist Andy Stonehouse lamented the disappearance of "civility and care" from the state's roads as the population grows.
Whatever the ultimate reasons, the fact is that our state's roads are significantly more dangerous than they were a decade ago. While fatalities remain rare in Eagle County, hardly a day goes by without the Eagle County alert system (You are subscribed to that service, aren't you? Go to http://www.ecalert.org.) bringing news of at least one traffic accident, often on clear, dry roads.
We can all help make our roads safer. Stay sober. Follow the rules of the road. Hang up the phone. Fasten your seat belt — something many of us still neglect.
A bit more care will ensure that you, and others, arrive safely.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.
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