CHP Discusses New Focus on Drugged Driving

SACRAMENTO -- With California less than a week away from officially legalizing recreational marijuana, the CHP offered a sobering reminder Wednesday at the State Capitol.

Their new motto -- "DUI doesn't just mean booze."

A poignant reminder especially for the California Highway Patrol, who just three days lost one of their own. Officer Andrew Camilleri was on duty, when he was killed by a driver the CHP says was both drunk and high on marijuana.

"It's a gut punch for us. And it's a reminder though there are many people who will perish on our roadways, or have, because of this same type of thing," CHP Valley Division Chief Brent Newman said. "This one affects our family. But there's families all over California that are affected by these impaired driving incidents."

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, over the last decade the number of people arrested for driving under the influence of drugs has risen significantly.

And with the legalization of recreational marijuana just days away, they expect those numbers to grow.

"If you drive high, and you're stopped, and you test positive on a roadside sobriety test, then you're going to be arrested for DUI," Office of Traffic Safety Director Rhonda Craft said.

To test alcohol related DUIs law enforcement officers use breathalyzers to determine the level of impairment. But right now – they don’t have the equivalent to the breathalyzer to test for drug related DUI’s.

At this point, law enforcement relying on training to know what to look for once recreational pot becomes legal.

Officials also noted to never combine drugs and alcohol, saying the combination can become lethal.

"Pay attention to your medication labels," Craft said. "Adhere to the warning signs."

Legal cannabis aside, something as innocent as over the counter allergy medicines and pain relievers can be deadly when mistakenly combined.

"Something that can be healthy, like prescription medication under the care of your doctor," Newman said. "Once you get behind the wheel and you're not supposed to be doing that, that can go to fatal."