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California drivers more likely to be high than drunk, study finds

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 20th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In the Golden State of California, highway patrol officers can pull over drivers they suspect of driving while intoxicated. The problem is - many of these drivers will test negative for alcohol. According to a new survey by the state's Office of Traffic Safety, about one in seven drivers on California roadways may be under the influence of drugs.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The survey, released this week tested more than a thousand drivers on weekend nights in nine California cities. The study found that roughly 14 percent of those drivers tested positive for drugs that might impair driving. At the same time, half as many of the drivers surveyed by the OTS tested positive for alcohol.

Compared to the rest of the nation, the number of drug-impaired drivers in California has increased throughout the years. It reinforces officials' belief that driving under the influence of drugs is a serious and growing problem, said Christopher J. Murphy with the OTS.

These worrisome figures highlight the need for more traffic officers trained to detect drug-impaired driving. Without on-the-spot blood tests, it's harder for officers to prove in court that a driver was under the influence of drugs.

"But these folks that have been through the drug enforcement expert training -- if one of them can evaluate a driver accused of being under the influence of drugs, that testimony will normally hold up in court," OTS spokesperson Chris Cochran says.

The office plans to increase the numbers of District Attorneys dedicated to drug-impaired driving cases, and purchase better lab equipment. Marijuana, now more readily available with growing medical marijuana stories, was by far the most prevalent. More than seven percent of drivers tested positive for the substance.

The survey also found a significant number of drivers under the influence of both drugs and alcohol. About 23 percent of the drivers who were found to have alcohol in their systems also tested positive for some kind of drug -- be it prescription or street narcotic.

Interestingly, those in the study were not convicted for testing positive. About 1,300 drivers volunteered to provide breath or saliva samples set up at nine different locations in the state. Those who were judged to be too impaired were advised that they should have someone else drive them home, Cochran said.

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