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More Californians driving high than drunk on weekends, study says

An Orange County Sheriff deputy checks a motorist's identification at an Orange County DUI checkpoint in Westminster in 2001. Credit: Allen Schaben / Los Angeles Times

California officials are warning against "drugged driving" after a statewide survey found drugs that can affect driving in one of every seven weekend nighttime motorists -- nearly twice the number of those with alcohol in their system.

The survey results, announced Monday by the California Office of Traffic Safety, found that 14% of drivers surveyed tested positive for driving under the influence of impairing drugs -- both illegal and prescription -- while 7.3% of drivers tested positive for driving with alcohol in their system.

“These results reinforce our belief that driving after consuming potentially impairing drugs is a serious and growing problem,” Christopher J. Murphy, director of the Office of Traffic Safety, said in a statement.  

The impaired driving survey included more than 1,300 drivers who voluntarily provided breath and/or saliva samples at roadside locations set up in nine California cities between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday night. 

Samples were tested for alcohol, THC, major illegal drugs as well as prescription and over-the-counter medications that may adversely affect driving. 

Of the drugs found in the system of surveyed drivers, marijuana was most prevalent, with 7.4% of drivers having it in their system. 

“Drugged driving poses a serious threat to public safety,” Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with California and other states to raise awareness about this important issue and continue to take action to make our roadways safer.”

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-- Wesley Lowery

Follow Wesley Lowery on Twitter and Google+.

Photo: An Orange County sheriff's deputy checks a motorist's identification at a sobriety checkpoint in Westminster in 2001. Credit:  Allen Schaben / Los Angeles Times

 
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