California Makes Progress in Drugged Driving Legislation

Drugged driving is a threat to public health and safety.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2007 National Roadside Survey found that approximately one in eight weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illicit drugs.[1]  In 2010, a study conducted by NHTSA found that among fatally injured drivers who were tested and the results reported, 33 percent tested positive for at least one drug.[2]   While these statistics are useful, more data is needed to determine the full extent of the problem.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy supports efforts to obtain better information on drugged driving so that state and local governments can better tackle this growing problem.  A few weeks ago, California took an important step forward in providing better data on drugged driving. 

On September 29, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2552 which will distinguish the offenses of driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of any drug, and driving under the combined influence of alcohol and any drug.  The law goes into effect on January 1, 2014.  California joins New York and Hawaii as the only states to separate these three offenses. “Up to now we have had limited statistics that seemed to point to increasing drug involvement in crashes,” said Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety.  “With this new legislation, we will be able to gather a greater quantity of much more detailed information on the size and scope of the problem.  It will help in law enforcement, court system, and public awareness efforts to combat this growing problem.”

California recognizes that drugged driving is a serious threat to public health and public safety, and this law compliments other work being done in the state to address it.  The California Office of Traffic Safety considers “Alcohol and Other Drugs” a priority area and funds a number of initiatives to better understand and reduce drugged driving.  These initiatives include new drug testing equipment, grants for the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) program and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) training, and a survey modeled on the 2007 NHTSA National Roadside Survey to determine the prevalence of drug and alcohol impaired driving.



[1] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Results of the 2007 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers. U.S. Department of Transportation Report No. DOT HS 811 175. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2007.

[2] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Drug Involvement of Fatally Injured Drivers. U.S. Department of Transportation Report No. DOT HS 811 415. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2010. 

 

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