rubio_verdict

Alex Rubio, right, reacts after he was found guilty in the 2014 drunk driving crash that killed Princess Almonidovar. Attorney Tony Lidgett is at left.

Plan ahead and either schedule a ride or go easy on the libations this New Year's.

Law enforcement throughout the county — and state — will be scouring roadways searching for drunken and otherwise impaired drivers throughout the New Year's holiday weekend.

Faced with more instances of drugged driving, Bakersfield police are stressing the California Office of Traffic Safety message that "DUI Doesn't Just Mean Booze."

"The message takes on increased importance with the state set to begin licensing commercial nonmedical marijuana sales on Jan. 1, 2018 ... ," police said in a news release.

The department is sending out additional DUI patrols starting Saturday and continuing through Sunday in areas with high numbers of DUI crashes and arrests. Police said the extra officers, along with routine patrols, are aimed at helping to reduce impaired driving during a holiday widely known for drinking, sometimes to excess.

"It has taken more than 35 years to convince the vast majority of the public that driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous, illegal and socially unacceptable," said Rhonda Craft, director of the Officer of Traffic Safety, in the release.

She said, "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."

The percentage of drivers in fatal crashes with an impairing drug other than alcohol in their system has risen from 26.2 percent to 42.6 percent from 2005 to 2015, according to the release. 

A roadside survey in 2012 in California showed more drivers tested positive for drugs that impair driving than for alcohol, according to the release. Marijuana was the most common drug.

The California Highway Patrol is also spreading the message that impaired driving means more than just being drunk.

"Think driving while high won’t affect you?," CHP headquarters tweeted Wednesday. "WRONG. It's been proven that THC - the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects - slows reaction times, impairs cognitive performance, & makes it harder for drivers to keep a steady position in their lane."

Anyone who sees a suspected drunken driver is asked to call 911.

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