Just reading that chilling title should give everyone who travels on California’s roads a real concern. The San Diego Union Tribune reported this week on the statistic from the state’s Office of Traffic Safety. Thirty percent all drivers killed in California motor vehicle accidents in 2010, the Union Tribune reports, had drugs in their bodies. Anyone who is driving impaired is a danger not only to himself or herself, but to everyone else who is also traveling the same roads.
Since 2006, the percentage of drivers who drive while under the influence of legal and/or illegal drugs has been steadily rising. The Union Tribune’s news story reveals that in the fall of 2010, California conducted roadside surveys on weekend nights in six cities. During those surveys, officers found that more drivers had positive tests for marijuana, at 8.4 percent, than those who tested positive for alcohol, at 7.6 percent.
Christopher J. Murphy, director of the Office of Traffic Safety, who was quoted in the news story, said that the public, in general, does not realize how much of a problem drugged driving is. He further explained that drugged driving contributes to a rise in the number of car crashes, driving-related deaths and injuries. He added that everyone has to acknowledge that drugged driving is a serious problem, and all must work to put the brakes on this behavior.
Working together, the Office of Traffic Safety and the Highway Patrol are giving law enforcement officers the kind of specialized training they need to recognize those drivers who are impaired. The news story reveals that 700 officers, from various departments around California, have already participated in the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement training over the last five months. Another 1,000 officers of the California Highway Patrol are certified Drug Recognition Experts, which requires a second tier of training. This, according to a spokesman for the state agency, is the most of any force in the U.S. The state agency has also given federal funds, the Union Tribune reports, to Orange County and Sacramento County, so law enforcement departments can buy new, and more sophisticated equipment that can detect drug use.
While the number of drug-impaired drivers involved in fatal crashes has been increasing, the Union Tribune explains that this doesn’t necessarily indicate that drivers are using drugs more and more. A spokesman for the state agency said that while other issues have been top concerns, such as alcohol, speeding, motorcycles, pedestrians, bicyclists, seat belts, aggressive drivers, these have had growing improvement since 2005. Though those concerns have been improving, the spokesman added, other problems, such as drug use, distracted driving, using cell phones and other equipment while driving, which did not have as much attention focused on them are now coming to the forefront.
The good news is that drunk driving is decreasing. Unfortunately, much more work has to be done to convince drivers that drugged-driving is a serious problem. And even if drivers are not intoxicated or impaired by substances, there’s still the growing problem of distracted driving that can have deadly consequences. In one short period in San Diego County, from February 13-17 the Union Tribune reports, CHP officers and Sheriff’s deputies gave over 500 citations for distracted driving. All drivers need to be aware that driving requires focus, attention, and an alert mind. Anything that could detract and distract from that should be avoided.
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