BELCHERTOWN, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A new campaign to crack down on impaired driving since recreational marijuana is legal in the state is now underway.
The campaign is titled 'Plan Ahead, Get A Ride' and will urge motorists to find a safe, sober ride home - whether that be from a friend, public transportation, a cab, or ride-sharing services - before the festivities begin.
“Drivers impaired by marijuana, alcohol or any other drug threaten the safety of every other motorist on the road with them. In 2016 alone, 79 innocent people were killed by impaired drivers. That’s unacceptable. This campaign serves as a reminder to plan for a way to get home before you celebrate," said Thomas Turco, III, the state's Secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.
Belchertown Police Chief Chris Provonost told Western Mass News thanks to a grant from the state, they can afford extra patrols in search of impaired drivers through the end of the year.
“If the officer develops enough probable cause that they are driving under the influence of marijuana they're going to be placed under arrest," explained Chief Provonost.
Officials noted that the campaign will feature TV advertisements, bilingual ads online, and transit advertising.
According to the state's Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, in Massachusetts:
- Marijuana was the most prevalent drug found in drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2012-2016.
- From 2012-2016, an average of 10% of all drivers involved in fatal crashes were found with both alcohol and drugs in their system.
- From 2015 to 2016, alcohol impaired driving fatalities increased 41 percent (105 to 148).
- In 2016, impaired drivers killed 79 people – an increase of 19 fatalities from 2015.
- From 2011-2015, 82 percent of impaired drivers in fatal crashes were men.
- From 2011-2015, 45 percent of all alcohol-related driver fatalities were ages 21 to 34.
“Marijuana’s effect on a person’s driving ability is well-documented. If you feel different, you drive different. If you’ll be using marijuana or alcohol, it is your responsibility to avoid getting the behind the wheel by planning a sober ride home or simply staying home," added Jennifer Queally, the state's Undersecretary for Law Enforcement for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.
As part of the initiative, the state will provide funding to 139 local police departments and the State Police to conduct impaired driving enforcement efforts, including patrols and sobriety checkpoints.
An impaired driving arrest can mean a fine that can costs you $500 and potentially up to two-and-a-half years in jail.