SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — With the legalization of recreational marijuana less than a week away, California traffic safety officials unveiled a multi-media campaign Wednesday aimed at preventing “stoned” driving.
Rhonda Craft, the director of the state Office of Traffic Safety, said the goal of the campaign is to get the word out that driving under the influence is not limited to drunk driving.
“No matter who you are, no matter what you call it — weed, pot — or how you consume it,” she said. “The message today is DUI doesn’t just mean booze.”
Craft said the slogan for the campaign is a simple one — “Drive high, Get a DUI.”
Chief Brent Newman of the California Highway Patrol said each year 30,000 collisions in the state are caused by drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“Just like drunk driving, driving under the influence of any impairing substance is not only dangerous — it is crime,” he said.
Newman said both citizens and CHP officers will be facing a difficult challenge once recreational pot is legal. How do you determine how much is too much.
“With a lot of these other things you don’t know the concentration of cannabis and what your are taking in and your don’t know the effect it has,” he said. “So you are dealing with a lot of variables that are unknown.”
The Office of Traffic Safety says the issue of drivers under the influence of drugs – DUID — rather than alcohol is an increasingly serious problem.
Just how serious of an issue it has become was driven home by the death of CHP officer Andrew Camilleri, who was killed on Christmas Eve when a driver suspected of being under the influence of both pot and alcohol slammed into his patrol SUV on Highway 880 in Hayward.
Several hundred CHP officers, academy recruits and family members gathered in a courtyard at the CHP Headquarters in West Sacramento Wednesday for a ‘last watch’ memorial service for Camilleri.
“I’ve told a number of people that the circumstances are horrible in which we have to be here, but to provide this for the family is an absolute honor,” said Camilleri’s commanding officer Capt. Tim Pearson said at the ‘last watch’ ceremony. “This is a very difficult time for the family, the extended family of the department, myself and my command in Hayward. We’re dealing with it, we are grieving.”
Newman said the CHP’s drug recognition experts have gone thru extensive training on how to detect drugs and alcohol and developed a 12-step process for officers in the field.
“What is the guideline when you pull someone over – we do objective tests and we look at driving behavior,” he said. “We look at the whole picture.”