New Highway Safety Laws in California Target Driving While Using Cannabis

Law enforcement expects an increase in DUI offenses due to the state's legalization of recreational use of marijuana.

Laws passed by the California Legislature in 2017 include a handful addressing issues involving highway safety, including cannabis consumption and seat belts on buses.

Akin to an existing law that prohibits the consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle, a new law bans smoking or ingesting marijuana while driving or riding in a car, the California Highway Patrol, or CHP, said in a recent news release

Another piece of legislation that went into effect at the end of June designates $3 million for CHP to train state and local law enforcement officers in drug recognition and impairment. Additionally, the law prohibits having an open container of cannabis or cannabis product when driving. 

“Law enforcement anticipates an increase in DUI resulting from the legalization of recreational cannabis,” the agency said.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute in August released data showing collision rates to be about 3 percent higher in three states that had legalized marijuana for recreational use: Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

A separate measure that takes effect in July 2018 requires drivers and passengers on tour buses to wear seat belts if the vehicle has them. The tour bus operator must make sure seat belts are in working order and inform passengers they are legally required to use the restraints. 

School buses and transit buses were not included in the seat belt legislation, according to CHP.