California Highway Patrol officers will be out this New Year’s weekend in Sacramento and around the state looking for drunk drivers and motorists high on marijuana before the new legalized cannabis law takes effect Monday.
The CHP has declared the weekend a “maximum enforcement period,” starting at 6:01 p.m. Friday, sending extra patrols on the road with an eye out for impaired and distracted drivers, as well speeders and other safety law violators.
Last New Year’s weekend, 29 Californians died in alcohol-involved crashes. The CHP arrested 715 drivers for suspected drunk or drugged driving.
“Impaired driving is a very serious crime that puts your life and the lives of others at risk,” CHP Acting Commissioner Warren Stanley said.
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Highway safety officials said they encourage people to designate a sober driver, call a taxi or use a ride-sharing service.
Officials say drugs, both legal and illegal, have increasingly been the cause of driver impairment. Fatal crashes involving drivers using drugs have increased 39 percent since 2006, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.
Officials expect the problem to intensify next year with the legalization of the recreational use of cannabis. Cannabis sales will become legal for adults 21 and older starting Monday, under the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, passed by state voters in 2016. Medical marijuana has been legal in California since approved by voters in 1996.
“We expect an increase in accidents here,” Rhonda Craft, director of the California Office of Traffic Safety, told The Bee this week at a state Capitol press conference about the new marijuana law.
State officials have launched a campaign to educate drivers, including those taking prescribed medicine, that “DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Booze.”
The CHP has been training officers to use field-sobriety tests, combined with tests that measure the cannabis compound THC, to determine impaired driving, said Lt. Eric Jones of the CHP.