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Auto Club And LAPD Target Life-Saving Efforts Ahead Of Holiday Traffic And Legal Recreational Marijuana Sales In 2018

Auto Club Hosts Traffic Safety Summit To Address Drugged, Distracted, Drowsy, And Drunk Driving

drugged driving stop
Photo credit: AAA

As more than 13 million Californians prepare to travel this holiday season the Automobile Club of Southern California and LAPD will gather today with traffic safety experts to discuss the impacts and challenges of  high-risk driving behaviors during this holiday season and in the New Year.


The 2017 “4D” Summit at the California Endowment Center features state and nationally recognized law enforcement, public policy, prosecution and advocacy experts in the areas of drugged, distracted, drowsy and drunk driving. They will discuss their findings regarding the effects that the four “Ds” have on driving safety and what Californians can expect in 2018, when recreational marijuana will be available for sale at retail outlets.


After decreasing for many years, crashes related to drunk driving increased by 1.7 percent nationwide in 2016, according to NHTSA data.  In California, the rate increased by 4.3 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the state Office of Traffic Safety.  Also, drug-impaired driving is on the rise, according to both national and statewide statistics.1  Drugged driving is already a significant issue in California, with nearly one in five fatal collisions involving at least one driver who tested positive for drug use.2


Anita Lorz-Villagrana , the Auto Club’s traffic safety and community programs manager, said the summit is focused on four areas of deadly driving behaviors because this time of year presents increased risks for each type of danger behind wheel.


“With the increasing number of Californians expected to travel this holiday season, and with legalized recreational marijuana taking effect Jan. 1, we wanted to call attention to the very clear danger that these behaviors present to all of us on the road,” she said. The summit will  bring together professionals in the law enforcement, public health, judicial and public policy fields.


“While recreational marijuana is legal in California starting Jan. 1, driving under the influence of the drug is still illegal,” said Sergeant Michael Delgadillo of the LAPD’s Drug Recognition Expert Unit.  “The most common drug, detected in over one-third of fatally injured drivers in 2015 in the U.S., was marijuana. The LAPD and state law enforcement agencies are prepared to detect and arrest those who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”


Rich Romer, AAA manager of state relations based in Washington, D.C., will present research findings from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety related to the four “Ds”.


AAA Foundation research shows that after the state of Washington legalized recreational marijuana, fatal crashes involving drivers who had recently used marijuana more than doubled. Foundation research also found that there is no similar method to blood-alcohol content (BAC) testing – used to convict drunk drivers – that can be reliably used to test for marijuana impairment. This means that California law enforcement agencies must invest more in drug-recognition expert (DRE) training and other efforts to effectively enforce impaired driving laws.


Joining Romer will be nationally known drug recognition experts from the LAPD and CHP who, with state city attorneys and state deputy district attorneys and DUI experts from the California Department of Motor Vehicles ( DMV), will share plans for how the state is preparing to face the new reality of legalized recreational marijuana.


In addition, Rick Birt, acting president and CEO of SADD, Inc. will focus on teens taking the wheel and facing the dangers of distracted, drowsy, drugged and drunk driving.  Joel Feldman, head of and the Casey Feldman Foundation, will share the story of his daughter’s death in 2009 by a distracted driver.   Feldman has spoken with more than 100,000 teens and adults since 2012.


Distracted driving can last longer than many people may believe, according to AAA Foundation research which has shown that potentially unsafe mental distractions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands.


Additional 4D Data:

  • Overall
    • According to NHTSA data, 37,461 lives were lost on U.S. roads in 2016, an increase of 5.6 percent from calendar year 2015.
  • Drugged Driving
    • Marijuana use was the #1 drug in US found by DRE’s (2014) The most common drug, detected in over one-third of fatally injured drivers in 2015, was marijuana, followed by amphetamines, at over 9 percent
    • In 2015, drugs found in fatally injured drivers exceeded alcohol for the first time.
    • Marijuana decreases driver performance and attention and increases reaction time and lane deviation. Furthermore, research shows that drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for marijuana were 1.3 to 6.6 times more likely to have caused the crash.
  • Drunk Driving
    • Nationally, drunk-driving deaths (10,497 fatalities) increased by 1.7 per­cent from 2015 to 2016.
    • In California, the number of injury collisions caused by alcohol increased 4.6 percent between 2014 and 2015.
  • Distracted Driving
    • On average, it takes about 5 seconds to send or read a text message. Traveling at 55 miles per hour, this is like traveling the entire length of a football field blindfolded.
    • For teens, AAA Foundation research shows that 6 out of 10 teen crashes involved distractions (other passengers and cell phone use among top causes).
    • Additional AAA Foundation research shows that 80 percent of drivers surveyed say texting/emailing while driving is a very serious threat to safety. However, 40 percent of drivers report having read a text or email while driving and nearly a third have typed one.
  • Drowsy Driving
    • More than one in three adults report sleeping less than the recommended 7 hours a day.
    • A driver who has slept for less than five hours has a crash risk comparable to someone driving drunk.
    • While 97 percent of drivers told the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety they view drowsy driving as a completely unacceptable behavior that is a serious threat to their safety, nearly one in three admit that at least once in the past month they drove when they were so tired they had a hard time keeping their eyes open.

1 Statistics from the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers and the 2012 California Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers.

2  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data

Video resources for journalists (must credit AAA): B-Roll of marijuana traffic stop

B-Roll of drowsy drivers

B-Roll of distracted drivers

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The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.