SOURCE: Automobile Club of Southern California

October 05, 2016 11:00 ET

Auto Club Hosts Statewide Drugged Driving Summit as Californians Consider Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Use

Traffic Safety Concerns, AAA Research Prompt Auto Club to Oppose Prop. 64

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - October 05, 2016) - As Californians are poised to vote on Proposition 64, a statewide measure legalizing recreational marijuana use, the Automobile Club of Southern California is hosting a summit today to discuss the impacts and challenges of drivers who are impaired by both legal and illegal drugs.

The Auto Club 2016 Drugged Driving Summit -- "Is California Prepared for What's Next?" -- at the Petersen Automotive Museum features nationally recognized experts on drugged driving issues and public policy, who will discuss their findings regarding marijuana's and other drugs' effects on traffic safety.

While drunk driving has decreased in recent years, drug-impaired driving is on the rise, according to both national and statewide statistics.1 Drugged driving is already a significant issue in California, with nearly one in five fatal collisions involving at least one driver who tested positive for drug use.2

Kathy Sieck, the Auto Club's senior vice president for public affairs, said that the summit is focused on the overall issue of drugged driving, and also highlights many of the research-based traffic safety concerns that led the Auto Club to oppose Prop. 64. "Prop 64 is a gamble on the public's safety, which isn't a risk worth taking, especially when drug-impaired driving is on the rise," she said.

Sieck said the Auto Club organized the summit to bring together professionals in the law enforcement, public health, judicial and public policy fields and discuss possible solutions to the challenges of the growing drugged-driving problem.

"The problem extends beyond recreational marijuana and illegal drug usage - many prescription drugs can impair skills that are critical to driving," she said. "Whether or not Prop. 64 passes, drugged driving is already a safety issue for the state and we need to better address it."

Jake Nelson, director of AAA Traffic Safety, Advocacy and Research based in Washington, D.C., will present the marijuana-impaired driving research findings from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

"The AAA Foundation undertook this research as it became clear that more states would be considering legalizing recreational marijuana before fully understanding the impacts to traffic safety," he said. "More studies are needed, and it is worrisome that five states this year, including California, are considering a far-reaching policy change that could have unintended consequences for traffic safety, the emergency medical system, law enforcement and the courts."

Nelson said AAA Foundation research showed that after the state of Washington legalized recreational marijuana, fatal crashes involving drivers who had recently used marijuana more than doubled. Foundation research also found that there is no similar method to blood-alcohol content (BAC) testing -- used to convict drunk drivers -- that can be reliably used to test for marijuana impairment. This means that California law enforcement agencies must invest more in drug-recognition expert (DRE) training and other efforts to effectively enforce impaired driving laws.

In addition to Nelson, summit speakers include:

  • Dr. Kevin Sabet, former senior advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana): "Marijuana Myths, Facts and Impacts to Society"
  • Dr. Jim Lange, San Diego State University: "Drugged Driving as an Emerging Social Problem: Challenges and Opportunities for Prevention"
  • Glenn Davis, Highway Manager, Colorado Highway Safety Office: "Ending Marijuana Prohibition: A View from a Highway Safety Office"
  • Jennifer Tibbitts Knudsen, Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor, Colorado District Attorney's Council: "Lessons Learned from Colorado: Enforcement and Prosecution of Drugged Driving"
  • Randy Weismann, Chief Deputy of Operations, at California Office of Traffic Safety, and Patrice Rogers, Research Manager of Alcohol, Drug,& Traffic Safety Research & Development for the Strategic Highway Safety Plan: "Statewide Strategy and Strategic Highway Safety Plan Efforts in California"
  • Cathedral City Police Chief George S. Crum, Lead State Drug Recognition Expert Instructor: "California's Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Efforts"

"Based on all available data, the rates of motor fatalities in which marijuana was a factor have consistently and significantly increased in areas where marijuana has been legalized," Sabet said. "And, as of now, there is no field sobriety test for drugged driving, nor a legal standard to provide a baseline for enforcement. This is an undeniable public health issue, and I look forward to working with the Auto Club and AAA to facilitate constructive, public dialogue and inspire much-needed policy reform."

1 Statistics from the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers and the 2012 California Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers.
2 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data

Editors note: The Drugged Driving Summit will be livestreamed starting at 9:30 a.m. at Facebook.com/AAASoCal

Embedded Video Available: https://vimeo.com/aaapublicaffairs/review/165499706/298f6c9105

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