by David Downs
The start of the New Year means the start of another legislative session in Sacramento — which means we're just weeks away from new bills purporting to stop California's drugged driving epidemic.
Problem is, police lobbyists manufacture this problem every year now to get more funding.
According to the most recent data from the California Office of Traffic Safety, road fatalities in the car-centric state are at record lows.
"In 2011, California’s traffic fatalities increased 2.6 percent (2,720 vs. 2,791) — still one of the lowest levels since the federal government began recording traffic fatalities in 1975."
The California 2010 Mileage Death Rate (MDR) — the number of fatalities per 100 million miles traveled is 0.84 and "marks the second time California has been below 1.0. California’s rate is much better than the national 1.11 MDR."
This is seventeen years after California legalized medical marijuana — and after decades of being at the epicenter of US cannabis culture.
Alcohol remains the worst drug there is in terms of road carnage. According to COTS data revised in Feb. 2013:
"Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities (fatalities in crashes involving a driver or motorcycle rider (operator) with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or greater) matches our historic low of 774 in 2010 and 2011. The 774 figure is the lowest DUI death total ever."
"California’s alcohol-impaired driving fatality rate dropped from 0.28 in 2009 to 0.25 in 2010. California’s rate is much better than the national average of 0.34. Of the five largest states in terms of total traffic fatalities, (CA, FL, TX, PA, and NC), California has the best rate."
"As a percent of total fatalities, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities decreased from 29 percent in 2010 to 28 percent in 2011. This number has remained virtually unchanged in the past five years. California is better than the national average of 31 percent."
What about weed-impaired driving deaths? California doesn't even have the data because the numbers are so low it's never been a priority.
Still, California will lead the nation in the number of sobriety checkpoints conducted annually (2,000+), and now those checkpoints are including mouth swabs for specifically targeting medical marijuana users.
Look out for new bills that criminalize driving sober in 2014, because hey, Mr. Policeman's family has to eat, too.