Drivers using alcohol decreases; drivers using drugs on the rise

Drivers using alcohol decreases; drivers using drugs on the rise

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the number of people drinking and driving has decreased almost 33 percent since just 2007. But the number of drivers using marijuana or other illegal drugs jumped from about 16 percent to 20 percent.

"We do see impaired drivers, and instead of alcohol, it is drugs," says Cpl. Sonny Collins with the South Carolina Highway Patrol. "A lot of people get very mind-set that DUI is alcohol. Drinking and driving, that's what we hear. But in fact, DUI covers alcohol, prescription drugs and illegal drugs."

Around Myrtle Beach, alcohol is still a huge problem. South Carolina is one of the top states for drinking and driving.

Forty percent of traffic fatalities the SCHP worked in 2013 involved a drunk driver.

"Alcohol is still going to be the most common DUI arrest," says Collins.

But Collins says the numbers from the NHTSA do suggest improvement. "If you travel around on a Saturday morning, or a Sunday morning, and you look at some of these clubs or bars, you'll notice cars in the parking lots. Which tells us, people are making good decisions, they're finding another way home, whether it's a cab or a friend or somebody else. But we still have far too many people who are drinking and driving."

The NHTSA survey found nearly one in four drivers tested positive for at least one drug that could affect safety, something Collins says is disturbing, "They're going to exhibit the same signs as someone under the influence of alcohol."

NHTSA survey link

Police say because drugs don't show on a breathalyzer, people think they can get away with driving under their influence

But if police pull you over and suspect you may have done drugs before getting behind the wheel, they can take you to the hospital and give you a drug test.

Legally, anyone driving under the influence of drugs face more than a DUI. They can be charged with possession of a drug as well.

Highway Patrol says troopers are out looking for anyone under the influence, regardless of whether it's drugs or alcohol.

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