Pot's legal, and cops are looking for impaired drivers - Albuquerque Journal

Pot’s legal, and cops are looking for impaired drivers

IT’S ALL ABOUT IMPAIRMENT: If you thought you could get away with driving a little high because cops are limited to Breathalyzers looking for liquor levels of .08% or higher, think again.

Recreational marijuana sales became legal Friday. The same day, the New Mexico Department of Transportation launched a new drugged endwi campaign.

And as with alcohol, driving while high really boils down to impairment.

NMDOT Secretary Mike Sandoval says in a news release announcing the new ad campaign “impairment is impairment. It doesn’t matter whether it’s alcohol or cannabis – driving while intoxicated on any substance is dangerous and illegal. If you are impaired and driving erratically or unsafely, you could be arrested for DWI. The law is the same.”

That’s important, because NMDOT cites University of New Mexico data showing “crashes involving only drug use have increased over the last 10 years” and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reports “show drugs were present in 43% of drivers who were fatally injured with a known test result.”

In 2021, alcohol was involved in 111 of the state’s 479 traffic deaths. Stay tuned to see if the data from UNM/NMDOT will parse out drugged driving.

In the meantime, State Police has 12 drug recognition expert-trained officers to combat drugged driving. The Albuquerque Police Department has eight, plus 87 advanced roadside impaired driving enforcement officers, and APD spokeswoman Rebecca Atkins says the DRE-certified officers “are ready to assist the field officers with any DRE-specific requests 24/7 with either on-duty or call-out investigations.”

NMDOT says “officers will evaluate signs of impairment rather than relying on the smell of cannabis. They will likely administer the standard field sobriety tests, which don’t necessarily look for a specific drug, but rather help officers determine how incapacitated someone is.”

MVD ONLY SHOWS EMISSIONS STATUS IF NEEDED: Ron Nelson shares “I bought a new car a year ago, my registration was due this past month, and (I) renewed it online for two years. Received it back in the mail last week and happened to glance at the page the sticker comes on.”

“Allegedly my emissions certificate from when I bought my car new goes well beyond the (every-two-years checks required in Bernalillo County). Even more concerning is the (MVD) web link they use to check the status is non-functional. … Where (can I) check my emissions certificate information?

Charlie Moore of the state Taxation and Revenue Department, which oversees the Motor Vehicle Division, says of Ron’s paperwork that “he doesn’t need emissions until 2026 is correct because his car is brand new” and he cites the state administrative code, Exempt Vehicle (B): 1. All new motor vehicles for four years following initial registration from the date of the manufacturer’s certificate of origin (MCO).

As for checking your vehicle registration and emissions status at mvd.newmexico.gov, Moore says because Ron’s vehicle is brand new and has not had a test yet it is not popping up. “It only shows if you need (an emissions test) or have previously had a test.”

DRIVERS NOT MAINTAINING MLK LANES: Darrell Frisse called to say at MLK, the northbound Interstate 25 frontage road’s left lane turns left and the center and right lanes go through onto the interstate.

But the through lanes jog to the left and there are many near-collisions because drivers do not follow suit.

Kim Gallegos of NMDOT’s District 3 office “informed NMDOT’s traffic section so that it can be added to the list of needed puppy tracks around the D3 area.” Puppy tracks are the dotted lines that run through an intersection to help drivers maintain their lane.

SAN MATEO A MESS NEAR THE VA: Fred Aragon called to report patients who go to the VA Medical Center are up in arms at how rough San Mateo is because the patches have fallen apart.

Scott Cilke, public information officer for the city’s Department of Municipal Development, says “that area is scheduled to be rehabbed in … the summer of 2023. In the meantime, our maintenance team is going to send a crew out to see if there’s anything we can fix more immediately.”

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; dwestphal@abqjournal.com; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.

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