Keeping Teens From Driving Stoned

Mar 17, 2014

Law enforcement is adjusting to legal marijuana in the Roaring Fork Valley and around Colorado… and that includes making sure people aren’t on pot behind the wheel. The Colorado Department of Transportation recently announced a new campaign this month to crack down on high drivers… and for at least one local drivers education company, it also means taking more time to talk with students about pot.

Johnny Gonzales owns Altitude Driving School in Glenwood Springs. He teaches mandatory classes for teens who want to get their drivers permit… and they sometimes bring up their experiences with drugs.

“Our classes are confidential, so they do disclose some things. You know, they might have tried maybe using it from their parents cabinet, like most of did when we were kids, when we drank. But especially with this new thing that they have now, that’s, it’s like a pen, kind of like a cigarette…”

Reporter: “A vapor pen?”

 “A vapor pen, exactly. So some of them talk about how they use that.”

As the name implies… vapor pens are small and look like pens. They are similar to e cigarettes, but can be used even more discretely to smoke pot. Gonzales is clear with his students about how dangerous it can be to get high and drive.

“I clearly tell teens it’s not safe to drive, concentration is difficult, your coordination is in jeopardy, it’s hard to just distance, speed, or identifying sounds, and in combination with alcohol it’s worse.”

Point being, driving sober isn't just about following the law-- it's a way for students to avoid accidentally killing themselves or someone else while on the road. If a driver does get caught behind the wheel after consuming pot, they could get a DUI… with fines and possible jail time that come with driving drunk.

A big part of Gonzales’s driver’s education classes is also catching parents up to speed. Gonzales sends home literature about how to spot vapor pens and other ways teens might be taking in marijuana… to help jump start a conversation at home.

“Parents who have convinced their children that tobacco and alcohol are bad for them, are most likely struggling next with how to talk with their teens about marijuana.

A discussion that’s becoming more common now that recreational marijuana is legal in Colorado and the Roaring Fork Valley.