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EDITORIAL: Stay Sober, Because Other Drivers May Not Be

December 13, 2018

The public safety establishment, obviously on edge due to the unknown impact of increased marijuana use, has launched a statewide campaign highlighting the dangers of driving drunk or stoned, timed for the upcoming holiday season.

Since this safe-driving push coincides with the rollout of retail pot shops, it rightly focuses on the risks posed by motorists impaired by marijuana.

“In 2016 alone, 79 innocent people were killed by impaired drivers. That’s unacceptable,” Public Safety Secretary Thomas Turco said in a statement detailing this initiative.

Actually, according to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, an average of 10 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes from 2012 to 2016 had both alcohol and drugs in their system, with marijuana being the most prevalent. The presence of marijuana since the issuing of that report no doubt has risen significantly with the legalization of recreational pot.

In order to avoid preventable tragedies, drivers should find alternate transportation if they plan on drinking or using marijuana.

As a further heads-up, the public service announcement also emphasizes that a considerable number of police officers will be conducting “stringent” impaired driving enforcement operations -- like sober roadblock checks -- aimed at keeping impaired drivers off the road.

According to the EOPSS, Massachusetts has 155 officers certified as drug recognition officers and 1,402 trained in advanced roadside impaired driving enforcement.

Should this pre-emptive media blitz give comfort to law-abiding drivers? We say, in this new marijuana environment, let the driver beware.

That’s because there’s still no reliable mechanism to determine pot impairment. Unlike alcohol, there’s no Breathalyzer test for those high on marijuana. Even those officers versed in drug recognition have only a trained eye on which to rely. This loophole could encourage cannabis users to push the pot envelope.

Ironically, this uncertainty might be the best public-safety message: Stay sober, because those other drivers could be drunk, high -- or both.

We’re all born alike, except Republicans, Democrats

What do Groucho Marx and state Rep. Colleen Garry have in common? Marx, the late member of the Marx brothers’ vaudeville and film comedy team and a genuine comedic genius in his own right, once famously intoned that he would never belong to any club that would accept him as a member.

That’s probably how Garry, a Dracut Democrat who also represents Tyngsboro, would have reacted if she had been rated highly by this club, the Progressive Massachusetts advocacy group.

Its report card, which evaluates legislators based on whether their votes on bills and amendments correspond with Progressive Massachusetts’ positions -- in lockstep with Elizabeth Warren -- gave Garry the lowest grade, 40 percent, among Democratic reps.

Garry shared that score with the highest-ranking House Republican in that survey, Groton state Rep. Sheila Harrington.

Conversely, Progressive Massachusetts bestowed one of its highest marks on state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat.

Garry’s positions reflect the conservative politics of the residents she represents. And so she undoubtedly wears that low approval rating as a red badge of courage in a deep blue state.

Eldridge, decidedly to the left of even most Democrats, obviously takes great pride in being so highly regarded by a group that shares his values.

Welcome to that club, Jamie, but don’t hold the door for Colleen.