As New Jersey nears the legalization of recreational marijuana, the state is kicking off an awareness campaign about the hazards of drugged and drunk driving.  -  Photo:  pexels.com/Harrison Haines

As New Jersey nears the legalization of recreational marijuana, the state is kicking off an awareness campaign about the hazards of drugged and drunk driving.

Photo: pexels.com/Harrison Haines

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office reported 674 fatal crashes last year in the Garden State, up nearly 24% from 550 in 2020, according to the Courier Post.

While those fatal collisions were likely due to various factors, state officials note that the percentage of drivers testing positive for drugs after a fatal crash is trending upward while the number of motorists testing positive for alcohol has remained constant.

To build awareness about the hazards of driving impaired, the state is launching a high-profile campaign know as “Wheels Risk.”

The campaign comes as the legalization of recreational cannabis in the state is imminent. In November 2020, New Jersey voters approved legalizing recreational marijuana, but sales of the drug have not yet begun. Multiple media reports say that could change very soon, with recreational sales starting in the next weeks.

State officials hope the “Wheels Risk” program will remind drivers that impaired driving is reckless driving — and it kills.

Based on a 2020 national study of several trauma centers, some 56% of drivers involved in serious injury and fatal crashes tested positive for at least one drug, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

New Jersey officials aim to reduce the dangerous impaired driving trend and reduce fatal crashes.

Overall, 704 people lost their lives in traffic accidents in 2021 in New Jersey — a 20% increases over 587 a year earlier. Moreover, that followed a 5.2% increase in traffic deaths from 2019 to 2020.

Taken together, the number of crashes and deaths are the highest recorded in New Jersey since 2007, reports the Courier Post.

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