San Marcos Community leaders and youth urge public to put drugged driving on radar

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San Marcos Vice Mayor Rebecca Jones, Dr. Roneet Lev of Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Marcos Sheriff’s Deputy Auggie Rosas and San Marcos Youth Advocacy Coalition members Melissa Arenas and Yareli Perez called Tuesday for the community to get involved in efforts to reduce the number of drugged drivers on local roads.

“High visibility enforcement efforts like “Avoid the 8 on 78” are an integral part of keeping our roadways safe from impaired drivers,” San Marcos Vice Mayor Rebecca Jones said at a press conference Tuesday which highlighted the need to be aware of impairment caused by drugs as well as alcohol.

“Drunk driving has been on the radar for decades, thanks to groups like MADD, enforcement efforts and prevention campaigns which have all led to a better awareness of the issue among the public. We need the community to take the keys away from suspected drug impaired drivers the same way they would for alcohol impaired drivers and to be proactive in getting the word out about drugged driving,” said Jones.

The call to action came Tuesday during a press conference at the San Marcos Sheriff’s Station on Santar Place.

Nationally, the prevalence of alcohol detected among drivers has declined by nearly 80 percent since 1973 according to a National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers and the proportion of drivers with measurable alcohol levels declined by about 30 percent from 2007 to 2014.

The survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also sampled drivers for drugs, about 20 percent of drivers tested positive for at least one drug in 2014, up from 16 percent in 2007. Some 13 percent of drivers had evidence of marijuana use in their systems, up from 9 percent in 2007. The drug showing the greatest increase from 2007 to 2013/2014 was marijuana (THC), a proportional increase of 47 percent.

In 2012 a California specific roadside survey was conducted in nine communities throughout the state including southern California. The percent of drivers testing positive for marijuana (7.4%) was almost identical to the percent testing positive for alcohol (7.3%) and about a quarter of marijuana-positive drivers also tested positive for another drug; about 13.3% marijuana-positive were also positive for alcohol.

The increase in persons testing positive for drugs on California roadways only paints half the hazardous picture. In 2011 there were 399 fatalities on the roads involving drugs up from 267 in 2001 a number which has increased by almost 40 percent, according to the California DUI Management Information System.
Yet, drugged driving — specifically when marijuana and prescription medicines are involved — often times is brushed aside, feeding myths that people drive safer and are somehow less likely to cause a crash.

“There is a misperception about the use of certain drugs and the ability to safely operate a vehicle, says Dr. Roneet Lev, who is also a member of the county’s Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force. “Marijuana potency over the years has increased and there are significant differences in how our bodies process the drug and react to it when eaten. Also, prescribed medications are seen as safe, since they are prescribed by an individual’s Doctor — even when warning labels state “do not operate heavy machinery”, both have the potential to impair our driving”.

The vice mayor’s message was clear: “Along with enforcement efforts we need the community to understand that multiple substances whether legal, illegal, over the counter and in combination with alcohol can affect an individual’s ability to drive safely”.

The message was reiterated by youth coalition member Arenas: “We want to raise awareness that driving is a huge responsibility and that deciding to drive while impaired is a dangerous decision that puts us all at risk.”
North Inland Community Prevention Program is operated by Mental Health Systems and funded in part by the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, Behavioral Health Services.

The Marijuana Prevention Initiative is operated by Center for Community Research and funded in part by the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, Behavioral Health Services.

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