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Report: More Californians Driving Drugged Than Drunk

November 20, 2012  | 

CC_Flickr: Chris Yarzab
CC_Flickr: Chris Yarzab

Californians are driving under the influence of drugs far more frequently than under the influence of alcohol, a state traffic-safety survey found.

A survey of drivers by the California Office of Traffic Safety found that 14% tested positive for impairing drugs (both illegal and prescription), while 7.3% tested positive for alcohol. Of the drugs, marijuana was the most prevalent at 7.4% of drivers.

"These results reinforce our belief that driving after consuming potentially impairing drugs is a serious and growing problem," said Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the Office of Traffic Safety.

Perhaps more troubling, the survey found that 23% of those who tested positive for alcohol also tested positive for at least one other drug. This combination can increase the effects of both substances. Also, 26.5% of drivers who tested positive for marijuana also tested positive for at least one other drug.

The impaired driver survey included more than 1,300 drivers who voluntarily agreed to provide breath and/or saliva samples at roadside locations set up in nine California cities.

The samples were collected between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, the peak times of impaired driving. Breath samples were examined for alcohol, while saliva samples were tested for THC (the active ingredient in marijuana), major illegal drugs, plus prescription and over-the-counter medications that may adversely affect driving, according to a release.

The prevalence of "drugged" driving in motor vehicle fatalities has increased in California since 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported. In 2010, 30% of those killed in crashes tested positive for legal or illegal drugs.

"Drugged driving poses a serious threat to public safety,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy and a former Seattle Police chief.

Comments (11)

Displaying 1 - 11 of 11

A. Yeung @ 11/20/2012 3:02 PM

As a society, we would be insane to legalize marijuana. Based on this study, we will be doubling the number of DUI's. I have seen people driving under the influcence of marijunana. It is scary. The second hand smoke is also a major health hazard. Go to any health website for scientific information.

Leonard Mather @ 11/20/2012 3:40 PM

More Californians on Drugs than on alcohol? Californians on Drugs AND alcohol? What is new? Is the Pope Catholic? A liberal state full of liberals and voting for Obamessiah? In my profession we have a saying, "Do not expect normal behavior from abnormal people."

S.S @ 11/21/2012 6:55 AM

This isn't a big surprise. It is a growing alarming one though. It's going to happen more and more. That's why we as officers have job security.

Dennis Hawker @ 11/21/2012 9:30 AM

Good gosh, Leonard, tell us how you really feel about Californians! Yep, it's a liberal state with a ton of liberal folks living in it, but a few conservatives live here too, like me. As a retired CHP officer, I have arrested many drunk and drugged drivers. That aside, and while it is a problem worldwide, driving while distracted, in my mind, seems to be a far more dangerous matter; with the introduction of cell phones, GPS devices, texting, notepads, etc., a few people don't seem to be watching the roadway at all. I predict that item to be a far worse issue in the years to come unless we adopt legislation to deal with it (like impaired driving, put it at the criminal level).

Michael @ 11/21/2012 9:47 AM

Well said, Dennis. Also, what does this have to do with liberals, Leonard? There are plenty of conservatives drinking and/or drugging and driving. I happen to be somewhat liberal and do not, as many other liberals do not. I fail to see the relevance of bringing general political stance into this. In fact, those liberals in CA have voted down legalizing marijuana.

John @ 11/21/2012 9:41 PM

The majority of voters just voted to legalize marijuana in Washington (a blue state). Yet our government bans indoor (including within 25 feet of an entrance) tobacco smoking, except for private residences. Plus, many businesses have campus wide smoking bans.

David Odom @ 11/22/2012 6:25 AM

The data does not necessarily support the conclusion that legalizing marijuana will lead to more drivers being more impaired. It could well be that absent a second drug, those drivers would simply consume more of the one at hand. I'd rather take my chances dodging a drunk driver who had a few tokes than and drunk who had a couple of extra shots.

There is no law that can stop drug consumption. I'd rather see those busted suffer real inconvenience and embarrassment, say a couple of months of weekends in orange suits picking up trash or digging ditches.

A. Yeung @ 11/26/2012 7:20 AM

Marijuana secondi hand smoke. Many health websites indicate0 that it is many many times worst than cigarette smoke. The cuurent health bill for cigarette smoke is bad enough for our community. We don't need to add more.

Cam @ 11/26/2012 8:08 PM

In Montana we drive long distances on a daily basis for work, medical, or shopping. There has been an increase of drivers falling asleep at the wheel and of course either flipping their vehicle, or crossing the median. We were taught to use VGN and HGN at school. Drivers are driving with the effects of sleeping meds, pain meds, etc. These do NOT say to abstain from driving while using the meds. The labels only say wait until you are accustomed to side effects before driving or operating heavy machinery. I cannot understand why the drug companies are not required to use labels saying NO driving at all while on these meds? VGN is also not used properly, as most LEO's are just getting blood tests done. What needs to be done is to look again at these labels and statistics, and have the government have the FDA change the warnings and restrictions. So many fatalities could be avoided if someone would address this issue. Anyone agree? Thanks for listening!

Cal C @ 11/28/2012 10:04 AM

Oh come on I'm in California, and it's noot tha baad dude. I maen um marijuana i use is medasin for um pain, and stuff, and i dot effct me and im driving now, and dude there's a taco bell

A.B @ 4/23/2013 9:52 PM

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the "more drugged than drunk" driving problem reaches across the country. I see it on a daily basis here on the East Coast, and it's a real problem. The real clincher is that over 70% of persons tested were positive for two or more drugs (counting alcohol as a drug) in their systems. I dont agree with the legalization of marijuana for many reasons, but one main reason is the fact that the psychomotor impairment can last for 24 hours. It's effects are extremely underestimated by supporters and users.

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