Statewide campaign kicks-off to warn about dangers of driving drugged
SACRAMENTO — The 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are recognized as the deadliest for teens, as collisions involving young drivers spikes sharply during this period. This year the Department of Insurance, the California Highway Patrol, Impact Teen Drivers, and the insurance industry are hoping to turn the tide by teaming up with the Ford Motor Company’s Driving Skills for Life Program to educate young drivers about the dangers of driving impaired with a unique behind-the-wheel experience.
“One mistake or poor decision can lead to painful and life-altering consequences from fines and increased insurance rates to the unthinkable-injuring or killing another person,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “Educating young drivers and building their behind-the-wheel skills is one of best investments we can make.”
Launched in 2003, the Ford Motor Company’s Driving Skills for Life program is designed to help improve young drivers’ behind-the-wheel skills beyond what they receive in basic driver education courses and teach them about risks, including distractions and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
“Traffic collisions are the number one killer of teenagers in America. New drivers often don’t recognize dangerous driving situations,” said CHP Valley Division Assistant Chief Ryan Stonebraker. “Driving under the influence of any amount of alcohol or drugs, or even the slightest distraction, like reaching for a cell phone, can have devastating repercussions.”
While efforts to educate young drivers about the dangers of distractions and driving under the influence of alcohol are well established, the legalization of recreational cannabis presents a new opportunity for parents to talk with their teen drivers about a new impaired driving hazard, as a recent survey by the Property and Casualty Insurers Association of America found.
“Our survey found that many Californians are hearing the messages warning against distracted driving, but too many people appear to have nonchalant attitudes about the dangers of drug impaired driving,” said Armand Feliciano, Vice President Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. “We need more research, public awareness, and sound public policy surrounding the dangers of marijuana-impaired driving to help save lives and reduce crashes.”
James Lynch of the Insurance Information Institute added, “There is substantial evidence supporting that THC impairment leads to a higher rate of motor vehicle crashes, and the chance of an accident increases with consumption.”
This year’s focus is on impaired driving and uses Ford’s newly designed Drugged Driving Suit, which simulates being under the influence of marijuana and driving impaired, as drivers navigate a controlled course. Students will perform some basic tasks (walking in a straight line, catching a ball, etc.,) while wearing the suit. Leaders in law enforcement, insurance and safety will be on hand to discuss the effects of impairment on a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely and the consequences for drivers arrested for impaired driving.