That impaired driver you see on the road may be on drugs rather than drunk, a state survey shows.

More than 1,300 drivers voluntarily provided breath and/or saliva samples at roadside locations last summer in nine cities around the state between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays — the peak times of impaired driving.

The state Office of Traffic Safety said tests of those samples showed that 14 percent of the drivers tested positive for illegal and/or legal drugs, although there was no conclusion made that any actually were impaired, while 7.3 percent tested positive for alcohol, with some deemed impaired.

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

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report found that of drivers killed in crashes in 2010 in California, 30 percent tested positive for legal and/or illegal drugs.

Of those testing positive for drugs, just more than half showed marijuana in their system. Of those testing positive for alcohol, 23 percent also tested positive for having at least one drug in their system.

To help crack down on drug-impaired driving, the Office of Traffic Safety said it is funding training for more police officers and prosecutors around the state and new laboratory drug-testing equipment.

The survey was conducted in Anaheim, Chula Vista, Eureka, Fresno, Gardena, Modesto, Ontario, Redding and San Rafael.

The breath samples were tested for alcohol. The saliva samples were tested for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana; major illegal drugs; prescription drugs; and over-the-counter medications that may affect driving, the Office of Traffic Safety said.


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  1. bradpipal

    What age groups had greater amounts of drugs in their system?
    Yes, those that drive after ten p.m., till 3:00 a.m., maybe multiple users of drugs.
    They call them “tweakers.”
    And it’s smuggled into the U.S..

    December 6th, 2012 3:18 pm

  2. luftmensch

    Marijuana shows up in your system even if you smoked days ago, so of course it’s going to show up at a higher rate in their tests. And considering the article states there was no evidence people were actually impaired in most cases, what’s the big deal? How about going after idiots on their cell phones? They tend to be the people I see driving most erratically, “hands-free” device or not.

    December 6th, 2012 3:57 pm

  3. billy

    luftmensch, it’s true that THC metabolites stay in your urine and/or bloodstream for days (weeks even) after ingesting, but these tests were breath or saliva, indicating much more recent use.

    December 6th, 2012 4:13 pm

  4. darnell

    86% of state drivers test negative for drugs.

    December 6th, 2012 4:17 pm

  5. Thomas

    If more officers tested for Marijuana, that number would at a minimum, double out here in Northern California

    December 6th, 2012 4:34 pm

  6. Yule

    luftmensch, the marijuana test was for THC, which stays in your saliva only for a few hours. There are currently no blood or breath tests in the field for drugs of any kind that can tell if you are impaired. That has to come from a Drug Recognition Expert evaluation, which wasn’t feasible for this kind of survey. And they are going after cell phone users, to the tune of nearly a half million tickets statewide last year.

    December 6th, 2012 4:58 pm

  7. Joseph

    This article reminds me of that little boy who was killed by that women who had her license suspended for medical reasons. If 10% of the drivers are unlicensed, another 6-8% driving on a suspended or revoked licensed, add to that 14% driving under the influence. That means that one third of the drivers should not be on the road in the first place!
    Rail connections, High speed rail, even taking a taxi. It boggles the mind to think how many lives could be saved.

    December 6th, 2012 6:14 pm

  8. wangofango

    “To help crack down on drug-impaired driving”
    It’s good to know that crack use is down in impaired drivers.

    December 7th, 2012 8:28 am

  9. chu

    this is no surprise . Go to the west county. As a volunteer fire fighter i have been to accidents at 6 am (when alcohol sales start ) day time drunk are out their be careful

    December 7th, 2012 8:52 am

  10. Driving Instructors

    The post you written is very good and it entails many useful information for me about driving. I am happy to find your great way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept.

    February 25th, 2013 11:52 pm

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