California DUI Drivers are Drugged

It’s pretty amazing that the police would set up a checkpoint and offer to pay individuals $20 to submit to a saliva drug test, but that’s what they did.

An unusual statewide survey has found that more Californians drive drugged than drunk on a typical weekend night. The federally funded survey involved more than 1,300 drivers who passed through roadside checkpoints in nine cities throughout the state. In exchange for $20, the drivers voluntarily provided breath and saliva samples for anonymous testing.

The samples were tested for the presence of alcohol, marijuana and both illegal drugs and prescription drugs that are known to impair drivers. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, 14 percent of the drivers tested positive for drugs compared to about 7 percent who were found to be under the influence of alcohol. Nearly a quarter of the drivers who tested positive for alcohol were also under the influence of an illegal or prescription drug.

Half of the drivers who tested positive for drugs were under the influence of marijuana, either alone or in combination with alcohol or other drugs. The methodology used for detecting marijuana was able to pinpoint whether marijuana had entered the bloodstream within the past few hours.

Federal drug experts had suspected that drugged drivers were more prevalent in California following a study of statewide driver fatalities conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That study found that 30 percent of drivers killed in car crashes in 2010 had drugs in their bloodstream. 

Lawmakers in California have already enacted new legislation that will require law enforcement officers to indicate in DUI reports whether alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two were involved. Offenders will be charged based on the substances that are found in their system. Assembly Bill 2552 will take effect on January 1, 2014, making California the third state after New York and Hawaii to distinguish between driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. California lawmakers have also committed to providing local jurisdictions with additional funding for drugged-driving cases.

The nine cities that participated in the driver survey were:

  • Anaheim
  • Gardena
  • Ontario
  • Fresno
  • Modesto
  • Redding
  • Chula Vista
  • San Rafael
  • Eureka

The roadside checkpoints operated between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Drugged and drunk driving is most likely to occur during these hours.

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