High percentage of drugged driving in California
Let's just forget the 1 percent for now. And the 47 percent, too, for that matter. Right now in California there's a new number on the block that should be part of the national conversation.
Fourteen percent of drivers in a recent survey tested positive for driving under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs, says the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). That's double the 7 percent that tested positive for alcohol. Of the drugs tested, marijuana was most prevalent, at 7.4 percent.
"Drugs that can affect driving were found in one of every seven weekend nighttime drivers in California, according to the first-ever statewide roadside survey of alcohol and drug use by drivers," says the OTS in a statement.
Of those testing positive for alcohol, 23 percent also tested positive for at least one drug.
More than a quarter of those drivers who tested positive for marijuana also tested positive for at least one other drug, according to the study.
The federally funded impaired driving survey involved more than 1,300 drivers who voluntarily provided breath or saliva samples at roadside locations in nine California cities on Friday and Saturday nights.
To address this issue, the OTS is funding programs to increase the number of officers trained to detect drug-impaired drivers, special District Attorneys dedicated to drug-impaired driving cases and new laboratory drug-testing equipment.
Gov. Edmund Brown Jr. also recently signed AB 2552 into law, which moves each of the DUI categories – alcohol, drugs, and alcohol plus drugs – into separate sections of the vehicle code. Prior to the new law, there was no way to quantify if drivers were under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both.
The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, is designed to help make data collection more accurate to better reflect the scope of the problem. This, in turn, will help create more effective prevention awareness campaigns and make it easier to draft policies and laws regarding the issue.
This poses the question of if insurers may eventually invoke a new set of surcharges for the three separate categories of DUI. It's likely too soon to tell, since the laws is new, but if drunk driving rate hikes are any indication, any new DUI surcharges are likely to be expensive if they come to pass. (See: "DUI and car insurance: What happens next?")
The California Department of Insurance had not returned calls requesting comment by press time.
Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's. Follow him on Twitter @destoups.