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Drugged Driving Bigger Problem than Drunk Driving in California, Survey Shows

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A new California survey shows that one in seven drivers who volunteered as study subjects had drugs (legal or illegal) in their system. According to a news report in The Orange County Register, the 2012 California Roadside Survey of Nighttime Weekend Drivers’ Alcohol and Drug Use points to the fact that more drivers tested positive for drugs, especially marijuana, than for alcohol. This is apparently the first roadside survey of its kind, which law enforcement officials say, points to a serious and growing threat. Among the 1,314 California drivers included in the survey, 2.7 percent were under the influence of an illegal drug, about 3.3 percent were under the influence of medications only and 5.5 percent had marijuana in their systems.

Holiday Enforcement

The study comes just as the California Highway Patrol is preparing for maximum DUI enforcement campaigns that are expected to continue through the holiday season when impaired driving is believed to be at its highest. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report from 2010 shows that more people die on the road during the Thanksgiving holiday than any other major holiday in the United States, other than New Year’s.

Drugged Driving Underreported

There is substantial focus on the hazards of drunk driving. But we rarely hear about driving under the influence of drugs – legal or illegal. Law enforcement officials say this is dangerous because drugged driving is a problem that is not as widely recognized or reported as drunk driving.

Laws and Liability Issues

California law prohibits drivers from operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. According to California Vehicle Code Section 23152 (a): “It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage or drug, or under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug, to drive a vehicle.”

Drugged drivers who cause injury or fatal car accidents can be held civilly liable for the damages in addition to facing criminal charges. Injured victims can seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, cost of hospitalization, rehabilitation, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. The family of a deceased victim can file a wrongful death claim seeking compensation for damages.

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