From Ventura County Limits: As part of a new effort to support personal and public safety, the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department aims to reduce DUIs due to marijuana, prescription and over-the-counter drugs using a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).
Drugged driving is on the rise in California and around the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drugs are involved in about 18% of vehicle accident deaths. A recent National Highway Traffic Administration study found that approximately one in eight weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illicit drugs.
Locally, in Ventura County, using collision data reported by Ventura County DUI Program participants who indicated drug use on the day of their DUI arrest, 28% reported being involved in an accident in 2012, and 26% in 2013. The most recent data collected shows that fully 10% had been using drugs, other than alcohol, on the day of their DUI arrest.
With these alarming facts Ventura County has chosen to take a stand to help change the social perceptions of driving under the influence of drugs.
The grant was developed using local data and calls for collaboration with other Ventura County agencies to develop a countywide educational media campaign to increase public understanding of drugged driving and its consequences; convene an interagency workgroup to share prevention strategies; and conduct drugged driving prevention presentations to a range of organizations, including local colleges.
“This marks a great extension of our ongoing prevention efforts,” said Patrick Zarate, Division Manager for Ventura County’s Alcohol and Drug Programs. “Driving under the influence of any substance, whether it’s alcohol, pot or prescription drugs, is a significant personal and public safety risk, and receiving this funding will allow us to further educate the public about these dangers.” The Ventura County Alcohol and Drug Programs and local partners will leverage this grant award to counter attitudes about drug-impaired driving and emphasize the very real risks. Planning has begun for a regional Drugged Driving Prevention Conference in September 2015 to counter the rise in the number of local DUI arrestees who say they used marijuana or another drug on the day of their arrest.
“It’s a sad truth – many people don’t realize that having a doctor’s note to use a drug, doesn’t mean you can safely drive after using,” said Dan Hicks, Prevention Services Manager, “We aim to change local perceptions of risk and let people know that they’re still looking at a criminal record and thousands of dollars in costs if convicted, not to mention the tragic crashes and other consequences that can result.”
In 2011, there were 23 fatal collisions involving alcohol and/or other drugs in Ventura County and the County was rated 48 out of 58 counties by the OTS for victims killed and/or injured in collisions involving alcohol. “That number is unacceptable, with or without the other substances of abuse, and this grant extends our efforts to save lives and protect safety,” said Zarate.
Find out more about drugged driving, including locating resources, at Ventura County Limits.