California DUI Fatality Rate Better Than National Average & New Drugged Driving Info

The California Office of Traffic Safety reports that our state's drunk driving fatality rate is actually lower than the national average, dispelling the myth that drunk driving is more serious in California over other states in the nation.

There is a general perception that California is one of the worst states in the nation for drunk driving. While drunk driving arrests are much higher in this state than almost every other state, the total number of drunk driving deaths is lower in California than the national average.

In the coming months, we will also likely see proposed drugged driving legislation. Last year, a bill introduced by Norma Torres attempted to make it illegal for a driver to operate a motor vehicle with any trace of cannabinoid in his or her system. This bill did not pass, but a similar bill was soon introduced.

That bill was Senate Bill 289, and it went a step further than its predecessor did by attempting to criminalize driving with any trace of any drug in your system. The only exception would be if the driver had a valid prescription for said drug and they were using it as prescribed/intended.

Bills like these (coined "Sober DUI" bills) will only continue to be introduced. Hopefully our legislators will have sense enough not to pass them. The ramifications of bills like this would be huge. For example, if Senate Bill 289 (or a similar bill) were to be passed, then taking cough syrup without a prescription and then driving could result in a DUI.

The problem with "zero tolerance" drugged driving laws is that some drugs can remain in a person's system for weeks after initial use. Unlike alcohol, it is incredibly difficult to determine A) when a drug was ingested, and B) how much was ingested.

As it stands, California's drugged driving law (§ 23152) states,

(c) It is unlawful for a person who is addicted to the use of any drug to drive a vehicle.
(e) It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.
(f) It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, two years ago California became the first state to conduct a survey of drivers for the purpose of gauging the perception of drugged driving as well as its frequency. The study revealed that 14 percent of all drivers tested had some sort of drug in their system while only 7.3 tested positive for alcohol.

In California, it is legal to use marijuana for medical purposes. This likely explains the fact that the majority of drugged drivers had some sort of cannabinoid in their system - 7.4 percent of all drivers. While 28 percent of all California traffic fatalities are caused by intoxicated driving, about 30.4 percent of all drivers killed in traffic crashes tested positive for drugs (both prescription and illegal narcotics).

California's drugged driving law is grouped with intoxicated driving law. While § 23152 of the California Vehicle Code states a maximum BAC (blood alcohol concentration) for drivers and commercial drivers (.08 percent and .04 percent, respectively), it does not specify at what point of concentration does a person become "under the influence" of a drug.

If you are facing charges related to driving under the influence of a drug or alcohol combined with a drug, you have options. By utilizing the strong representation of an Orange County DUI lawyer at The Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, you could fight your drugged driving charges and potentially avoid some or all of the penalties. Call today for a free consultation!

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