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Survey: Majority In CA Favor Tougher Penalties For Drugged Driving

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Those who drive while drugged and impaired should face the same penalties as those who drive while drunk.

At least that's what a new survey suggests a majority of Californians think. According to a new statewide traffic survey conducted by California's Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), nearly 70 percent think that driving under the influence of drugs—both illegal and legal—is "a very big problem and should carry the same penalties as driving under the influence of alcohol." And a solid 70 percent believe that the penalty for driving under the influence of drugs should be the same as the penalty for driving under the influence of alcohol.

In California as well as other states, impairment under the influence of an illegal drug, like marijuana for instance, is a lot harder to establish than alcohol DUIs; it somehow needs to be demonstrated for the drug offense, whereas for alcohol a blood-alcohol test is evidence enough.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drugs other than alcohol, such as marijuana and cocaine, are involved in about 18 percent of driver deaths. It's estimated that the 1.4 million arrests for DUI of alcohol or narcotics in the U.S. was less than one percent the number of true violations.

The survey also found that sobriety checkpoints are supported by an overwhelming majority of drivers (86.5 percent).

The first ever from the office, the survey—including 1,671 interviews of drivers 18 and older at 60 gas stations throughout California—is a kind of reality check to help them understand what drivers believe to be serious issues.

Otherwise, distractions, texting, and cellphones played a prominent role in questions and results. About one quarter of all survey respondents identified speeding and aggressive driving as the number-one safety issue. Cellphone distraction was the second-place response.

OTS notes that younger drivers are less likely to think of texting as a serious safety issue; more of those over 35 identified talking on a cellphone while driving as a danger as well. And when asked what was the most serious distraction for drivers, the top answer was cellphone conversation.

Despite that, more than 42 percent said that they'd talked on a hands-free cellphone in the past 30 days despite evidence that it's no safer than hand-held, and 27 percent confessed to using a hand-held phone in the past 30 days. Twenty percent texted or e-mailed while driving.

Motorists are aware that they're less effective as drivers while texting and calling. About 45 percent said that they'd made a driving mistake while talking on a cellphone, and 55 percent said that they'd been hit or nearly hit by a cellphone-distracted driver.

So for now, there's plenty of support to identify impaired drivers and get them off the road. But despite knowing the hazards, drivers continue to distract themselves with texts and calls...and hypocrisy.

[OTS, via PR Newswire]

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