So says a new study from the California Office of Traffic Safety. According to the study, which is reportedly the first of its kind, a surprisingly high number of drivers in the Golden State are getting behind the wheel while under the influence of any number of drugs (prescription or otherwise) that impair one's ability to properly operate a one-ton death machine. One out of every seven weekend nighttime drivers, to be exact.
For the traffic safety study [.pdf link] 1,300 drivers volunteered for roadside breathalyzer and saliva tests in nine California cities. The tests were given on Friday and Saturday nights — prime time for some good old fashioned impaired driving — and tested for the presence of alcohol, THC, major illegal drugs and prescription medicines as well as over-the-counter stuff that no one reads the warning labels on anyway.
According the the results announced yesterday, more drivers prefer to do their buzzed driving while hopped up on something other than alcohol. 14% of the drivers tested positive for drugs, while only 7.3% tested positive for booze. (Also: do those folks get DUIs? The survey is unclear on this.) Of those folks dosing and driving, marijuana was (naturally) the most prevalent drug: 7.4% of the drivers were found to be high on the kind bud. Also somewhat troubling: of those folks who tested positive for alcohol, 23% were on at least one other drug as well. Likewise, 26.5% of the pot users also tested positive for at least one other drug. Because nobody likes to party with just booze or weed anymore, we guess.
On the other hand, legal drug users were just as common as illegal drug users in this brave new world we live in — each group accounted for 4.6% of the drivers surveyed.
As part of the study, the OTS is funding new programs to train officers to detect drug-impaired drivers. In Santa Clara County, where testing drivers for marijuana is the norm, officers are trained to look for things like "droopy eyelids," "constantly licking the lips" or "nervous activity. As one deputy District Attorney in Santa Clara explained, the tests will finally allow them to prove that driving baked is, in fact, a bad idea.
Governor Jerry Brown also recently signed a bill that will move each DUI category — alcohol, drugs or alcohol + drugs — into separate sections of the vehicle code in order to get better data on the various kinds of DUIs.
In other transportation safety news: did you now the CA Office of Transportation Safety releases seasonal mocktail drink recipes?