Colorado once turned to comedy to warn residents about the dangerous mixture of drugs and driving. Early advertisements featured actors who got so high, they were trying to start grills without propane. The ads warned that although grilling while high is not illegal, driving while high is.
But as more drivers under the influence of drugs get into fatal car crashes in Colorado, state officials are hoping a new, more simple advertising campaign will help reduce impaired driving.
The new ad campaign tells drivers that if you feel different, you drive different. "Drive High, Get a DUI," the ad warns.
The new initiative was announced Tuesday by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and other state officials at the State Capitol.
Hickenlooper said he hopes the ad campaign makes the word 'drowsy' more emotionally charged. He recalled how he himself was rear ended by a drowsy driver.
The governor also said impaired driving is becoming a greater risk as the state grows.
"We are facing a change in behavior that should concern everyone," Hickenlooper said. "I have a teenage son who is 16 now, and I tell him I'm not as worried about his driving as everyone else out there just because some of the behaviors are trending in the wrong direction and we see our roads more crowded."
According to the state health department, 20 percent of people who use marijuana admit to driving while high. Last year, drivers in fatal crashes tested positive for drugs 244 times, Colorado Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis said.
Officials said reducing the number of crashes involving drugged or drunk drivers won't happen overnight.
"This is the beginning of a fairly large journey," said Heidi King, the deputy director of the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. "The ultimate goal is to make people aware that impairment is impairment is impairment."
Asked how Colorado residents would see the ads, King said the administration is still innovating on the ways to reach people.
Capitol Coverage is a collaborative public policy reporting project, providing news and analysis to communities across Colorado for more than a decade. Fifteen public radio stations participate in Capitol Coverage from throughout Colorado.