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'Hard For Me To Understand': Despite Bar Closures, Deadly DUI's Doubled During Early 2020

DENVER (CBS4) - In the age of coronavirus-related restrictions, traffic is down, but the roads may not necessarily be safer. According to Colorado State Patrol, impairment-related deaths in the first part of 2020 were double what they were for the same period in 2019.

With Memorial Day weekend well underway, CSP and Mothers Against Drunk Driving both urged everyone to think twice before getting behind the wheel while impaired. Typically, troopers see an increase in impaired driving-related incidents during the annual holiday weekend.

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"We're really concerned with what's going on on our highways as things are opening up, as we're here with Memorial Day weekend," said Fran Lanzer, State Executive Director for MADD Colorado.

So far this year, state troopers have already been busy responding to impaired driving incidents. Between January 1 and April 30, 2020, marijuana-related DUIs increased 15% compared to the same time period in 2019. Marijuana and alcohol involved DUIs also increased by 32%.

None of the stats are more troubling than fatal DUI and DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs) crashes, which doubled. In the first quarter of 2019, troopers responded to 12 impairment-related deaths, and so far in 2020, they've responded to 24.

"It's very hard for me to understand that, especially now that bars aren't open, everybody is home," said Brittany Lamb, a DUI crash survivor who shares her story to spread awareness.

In 1997, Lamb and her aunt were driving home from a play, when a drunk driver crossed the center line on Santa Fe Drive and hit their car head on.

"She was killed in the crash and I was severely injured," Lamb described.

On that day, the driver's actions had further consequences though. Later, he, two nurses, and a pilot died when the medical helicopter hit a nearby power line.

"You know, that's the scary part is anybody can make a decision and not only will it affect their own life, but somebody else's life," She said.

Twenty-three years later, Lamb hopes people hear her story and think twice before driving impaired.

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Her message, along with MADD and CSP's, is to plan ahead if you are going to be drinking.

"There's a lot of options right now," Lamb said. "You could spend $20 on an Uber instead of $30,000 on a DUI."

"There's really no excuse for anybody to drink and drive," said Sgt. Blake White with CSP. "Even if rideshare is not an option, get a sober ride or don't drink if you have to drive."

So far, state patrol says it's unclear what exactly is leading to the rise in impairment-related incidents, but Sgt. White said all cases have involved "poor decision making."
Fran Lanzer, with MADD Colorad, has another theory.

"I think it has a lot to do with the speed," Lanzer said. "There's not as much traffic, so people are driving a lot faster in general, and again, when you combine drunk or drugged driving with that high rate of speed it's very dangerous."

If you are a victim or survivor of an impairment-related crash, MADD Colorado offers support at no charge. You can reach the 24/7 hotline at 877-MADD-HELP.

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