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According to a recent bill discussed by the House’s Transportation Committee, Connecticut driver education courses would include information warning against the risks of driving while under the influence of marijuana. House Majority Leader Jason Rojas put forth the bill last month, and it had a public hearing last week. The proposed legislation would mandate that lessons on the risks of driving under the influence be included in private driver instruction courses as well as those provided at high schools and secondary schools.
The current law mandates that instruction on driving while impaired by drugs and alcohol be included in driver education, but it makes no explicit mention of cannabis. Proponents argue that it ought to be given recent state law revisions and widespread misconceptions about driving under the influence.
The bill comes after the state’s 2021 marijuana legalization law took effect and one month after commercial marijuana retailers began operating in Connecticut.
In his statement, Rojas stressed the need to take precautions to prevent minors from developing false beliefs about the effects of cannabis on their ability to drive. That misconception was further emphasized during the hearing by East Lyme Republican Rep. Holly Cheeseman, who has put forth similar legislation. According to Cheeseman, a lot of drivers don’t realize how using cannabis can affect their behavior behind the wheel.
There is a misconception that driving while high is safe, according to Cheeseman. “Oh, I’m a better driver because I drive more cautiously or slowly,” she said. “No. Let’s face it, if you’re driving 20 mph on Interstate 95, you’re just as dangerous as if you’re driving 80 mph because it impairs your depth perception and lane-change skills.”
Dr. Kevin Borrup, executive director of the Center for Injury Prevention at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, claimed that cannabis use could slow or impair critical driving abilities like reaction times and coordination. Since marijuana is now legal for adult recreational use in Connecticut, Borrup argued that it is crucial for the state’s teen driver education program to cover the risks of driving under the influence of marijuana. “We are aware that young people in Connecticut and across the nation underestimate the dangers of operating a motor vehicle after consuming marijuana,” he said.
Christine Cohen, cochair of the Transportation Committee and a Guilford Democrat, stated that there has been an “alarming” rise in incidents of drunk driving. Cohen added that she believes that it is incumbent upon the committee — on the legislature — to address that.
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