Detection and enforcement of driving under the influence of alcohol are key areas of focus for the California Highway Patrol (CHP), but other types of impairment endanger a driver and anyone in the driver’s path.

Some people mistakenly believe that driving under the influence of drugs, especially marijuana, is not necessarily as dangerous as drunk driving. However, national data from 2015 indicates drugs were present in 43 percent of the fatally injured drivers with known test results, appearing more frequently than alcohol. This data comes from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Educating officers

As the largest state law enforcement agency in the United States, the CHP continually evaluates driver and pedestrian safety issues. The CHP is increasingly focused on drivers who are impaired for any reason. It’s our job to deploy the resources of the CHP to keep the people of California safe.

To address the increase in driving under the influence of drugs, the CHP now requires all officers to complete Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) training. ARIDE is a nationally recognized two-day course offered to law enforcement throughout the United States to address the increasing problem of drug-impaired driving. Our goal is for all CHP officers to complete the ARIDE training course by the end of 2017.

"Although there are no standard tests for drug impairment, ARIDE provides officers with basic training to recognize signs of possible illegal drug use."

When officers stop drivers for violating a traffic law, they are specifically trained to observe whether there is any reason to suspect impairment. Symptoms may include distorted time perception, impaired coordination, droopy eyelids, slow and deliberate movements, muscle rigidity and blank stares.

When impairment is suspected, the officer will use a variety of tests. Although there are no standard tests for drug impairment, ARIDE provides officers with basic training to recognize signs of possible illegal drug use. If an officer has sufficient evidence to justify a charge of driving under the influence of drugs, the driver is arrested and a Drug Recognition Expert conducts additional tests.

Use better judgment

Driving is a complex task that requires attention, awareness, good judgment, coordination and experience. Any substance, whether it is alcohol, prescription drugs, marijuana or illegal drugs can create potentially deadly risks. Combining alcohol with other substances is even more dangerous because of the heightened effects and unpredictable symptoms.

As the CHP works to reduce the number of impaired drivers, everyone throughout California must do what they can to help. Do not drive under the influence of alcohol, drugs or any combination of alcohol or drugs. Always designate a sober driver, call a friend, use public transportation, call a taxi or use rideshare services.  If you ever see a driver you suspect is driving under the influence, call 911.