Californians given 'Drive high, get a DUI' message as pot legalization looms

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Law enforcement departments in California want to get the message out that driving under the influence extends past alcohol. (Fresno Bee, Craig Kohlruss,)

The California Office of Traffic Safety is releasing a new public service announcement just days ahead of a new state law, legalizing the use and sale of recreational marijuana.

"The message today, DUI doesn't just mean booze," said Rhonda Craft, Director of the Office of Traffic Safety. "With more dying on our roadways every day, we can't afford to take that long when it comes to driving under the influence of prescription medications, marijuana, illicit drugs and even some over-the-counter medications."

According to the Office of Traffic Safety, in 2005, 26 percent of drivers in fatal crashes had a drug in their system, other than alcohol. By 2015, that number had skyrocketed to 43 percent.

RELATED: What you need to know when sale of recreational marijuana becomes legal in 2018

The message has grown louder as the legalization of marijuana takes effect at the beginning of 2018.

Officials say the percentage of drivers in fatal crashes who have other impairing substances in their system, has risen 38.7 percent since 2006.

Prescription medications such as sleep aids and pain killers can leave drivers impaired.
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"Just like drunk driving, driving under the influence of drugs is not only dangerous, it is a crime," CHP Acting Commissioner Warren Stanley said. "What caused the impairment does not matter. In short, "drive high, get a DUI."

The stepped up education campaign comes as the CHP says goodbye to a rookie officer, Andrew Camilleri, killed on Christmas Eve by a driver suspected of being under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana.

"We just want to make sure that people understand, that you can't drive under the influence of marijuana or any drug," said Acting CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley. "We want them to understand that nothing has changed as far as that."

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