The Effects of Marijuana Legalization on Driving Safety

Since the legalization of recreational marijuana in California, there has been much concern regarding its impact on traffic safety. Marijuana use by drivers, particularly those arrested and involved in crashes, has become an emerging issue. However, there is a bit of a gray area under California law regarding marijuana use and driving. 

While it is clear that driving while under the influence of any drug is illegal, California does not have a legal blood concentration limit for THC like there is one for alcohol. This is partly due to the fact that the compound in the drug (THC) that intoxicates people does not affect everyone the same. Therefore, it is difficult for authorities to police marijuana for traffic stops.

Unlike alcohol, THC does not explicitly show up in the bloodstream because it distributes throughout the entire body. In this case, breathalyzers are not useful tools for measuring how much of the drug is in someone’s system. And if someone’s THC level cannot be accurately measured, the evidence cannot be used as grounds for a DUI case. As a result, policing and regulating marijuana usage is difficult for law enforcement and government officials.

Because of the ambiguity behind THC measurements, various authorities have taken interest in researching how the drug impacts driving. In July of last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 127 in order to provide funding and authorization for the CHP and other law enforcements to study the effects marijuana has on driving abilities. 

Looking to the Future of Marijuana Measurements

In 2018 and 2019, the CHP investigated over 500 traffic collisions in which marijuana use was suspected to be involved. One particular company (Hound Laboratories) plans to help solve this issue by creating a dual alcohol-marijuana breathalyzer. Once lawmakers set a legal limit, this invention will be able to numerically detect impairment levels. 

In the meantime, the CHP have to rely on drug recognition experts for assistance in keeping the roads safe from all impaired drivers.

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One Man Killed, Another Arrested in DUI Crash over Holiday Weekend

Holidays are intuitively a more dangerous time to drive because there are more people on the road who may have been engaging in activities that impair their driving. During the holiday season, it is reported that crashes increase by 34 percent. There is also an increase in fatalities of 38 percent with a 34 percent increase in the severity of sustained injuries. The most common cause of this rise in fatal accidents is driving while intoxicated.

Sadly, this past holiday weekend, a man was killed in an alleged DUI crash in Bakersfield. The incident occurred at approximately 9:51 p.m. on the Fourth of July. A Chevrolet Silverado with two occupants was traveling southbound when the driver lost control of his vehicle. He then traveled onto the east side of the road and slammed into a dirt berm.

Unfortunately, neither of the occupants was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, and they were both ejected out of the vehicle. The driver, identified as 31-year-old Eli Valdovinos Jr., suffered moderate injuries while his 54-year-old passenger Michael Dempsey Eyler was pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities later arrested Valdovinos Jr. on suspicion of driving under the influence. 

You owe it to yourself, your family members, your friends, and even other drivers on the road to take the necessary precautions to drive safer during any holiday season. Although they are a time to celebrate with the people you care for, it can be very dangerous to take the road. Incidents like this one can be prevented, sparing many innocent lives if we all practice caution before driving.

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Alleged DUI Road Crash Kills One and Hospitalizes Four

On Saturday June 27th, a 25-year-old man died after he was ejected from his car following an alleged DUI hit-and-run. The driver, identified as Jesus Gonzalez, had four other passengers in his vehicle—three minors and one young adult. 

According to the authorities’ investigation, Gonzalez was speeding down a curve before he lost control of his vehicle. Due to his delayed reaction time and impaired coordination, he swerved haphazardly from the northbound lane into the southbound lane. Somehow, during this action, his vehicle flipped and landed on its roof.

Gonzalez did not have on his seat belt at the time of the crash and was thrown out of the car upon impact. Sadly, he succumbed to his injuries and died at the scene. The four surviving passengers were taken to a local hospital for medical treatment. 

Although only Gonzalez’s vehicle was present at the scene, officers determined that another car played a role in the crash. Investigators believed that, at some point, the two cars bumped into one another. An unlicensed Rosalio Galindo Jr. later returned to the scene of the crash and identified himself as the other driver involved in the fatal crash. Officers believe that alcohol may be a factor. 

Consequently, authorities arrested Galindo Jr. He is now facing felony hit-and-run charges while the investigation continues.

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DUI Offender Arrested After Fleeing Scene of Crime

Drinking and driving is a serious and deadly crime. Even a small amount of alcohol in your system can lead to harmful situations. On Monday, June 29th 2020, a woman identified as Kenia Rodriguez made the dangerous decision to drive while intoxicated and caused a fatal accident

The collision occurred around 2:30 a.m. along Highway 180. Rodriguez was traveling eastbound in a 2000 Toyota when she lost control of her vehicle and struck a pedestrian walking on the shoulder of the highway. Instead of stopping to check on the victim, Rodriguez continued speeding down the highway. 

Unfortunately, the crash was fatal. The victim identified as Heather Martinez, 42, of Fresno, sustained critical injuries that could not be medically treated. Emergency medical personnel pronounced her dead shortly after the incident.

Rodriguez was later apprehended and found to be impaired by a Fresno County Sheriff’s deputy who stopped the Toyota near the scene. Officers arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and a hit-and-run. 

Rodriguez is currently booked at the Fresno County Jail while authorities further investigate the fatal crash.

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Racially Motivated DUI Stops in America Are a Problem

When I was a young adult, I was eager to take my new driver’s license and shiny car out into the world. My parents constantly reminded me to drive safe, go the speed limit, and avoid the freeway if possible. They told me to text or call them when I arrived safely at my location, but not once did my parents have to rehearse with me what to do if I was pulled over by a police officer.

Never did my parents tell me, “Lower your window so the officer can see you, turn on your lights, keep your hands visible, always have your license and registration with you, and don’t make sudden movements.” The same cannot always be said for people of a darker skin tone or different background. Unfortunately, many black and Hispanic parents have to have this difficult conversation with their children because they understand it could be the difference between life and death.

Racial profiling is considered illegal in America, and rightly so. Therefore, if you are pulled over for a DUI based on your race, the evidence against you should be inadmissible. Unfortunately, in practice, the illegality of racial profiling does not always mean that it will not happen.

Yet, black and Hispanic drivers across America are pulled over at rates much higher than white drivers, even though they are comparatively no more prone to illegal behavior. In the Stanford University Open Policing Project, the data showed that not only were black Americans more likely to be stopped than white Americans, but they were also more likely to be searched, ticketed, and arrested.

Racial Profiling in DUI Stops is Dangerous

The nature of driving impaired is inherently dangerous and can end in injury or death. Race does not discriminate in that respect. But when a routine traffic stop ends in the shooting and killing of an unarmed, fleeing black man, it is hard to ignore the racial implications. Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old black man, was recently killed in what started as a DUI confrontation. This incident highlighted the disproportionate amount of force used against minorities in traffic stops. It also mirrors the disproportionate incidence of traffic stops, particularly DUI, against black and Hispanic drivers.

There are countless stories of minorities detailing why and how they were stopped by police. Not all end badly, but nearly all are marked by one sentiment: fear. Stopping, detaining, searching or arresting someone based on their race is a violation of the Constitution. Officers must have “reasonable suspicion” that a crime was either committed or that someone is in danger, in order to stop a driver.

If race is the motivating factor behind your stop, it can taint your entire case. If you or someone you know suspects that their arrest for DUI was racially motivated, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Taylor & Taylor are here to help navigate your DUI case.

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