The latest COTS survey, the first roadside survey of drug and alcohol use by active drivers, showed that 14 percent of California drivers tested positive for illegal drugs and 7 percent tested positive for alcohol. That’s one-in-seven drivers cruising around while under the influence of an illegal substance. Since these drivers had already been stopped by police and the testing done based on their driving behavior (on a voluntary basis), it seems likely there were even more drivers out there who were NOT stopped by police but were no less under-the-influence.
When it came to drug use, more than half of those who tested positive for illegal drugs, marijuana was the most common drug of choice. And nearly one quarter of all drivers who tested positive for alcohol also tested positive for drugs. A deadly combination if ever there was one.
California has now launched a special initiative to help further train officers in detecting when a driver might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Governor Jerry Brown has also clarified current California law so drivers who are found to be under the influence of different things (Prescription drugs, marijuana, narcotics, alcohol) are each tracked separately, so further funds can be allocated in those areas where the need is greatest.
Distracted driving has been receiving a great deal of attention lately, but whether or not it is responsible for more fatal crashes than drunk driving does not diminish the risks caused by driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact, both these behaviors are more likely to lead to a fatal crash than anything else you might do behind the wheel, except closing your eyes and stomping down on the gas pedal in a traffic jam.