SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. - Just this week the California Highway Patrol lost one of their own by a driver suspected of being drunk and high on marijuana behind the wheel.
After the New Year, CHP expects more drug related DUI's when it becomes legal to buy pot for recreational use.
"With recreational marijuana users may be experimenting with it or trying it for the first time, they don't really know how it's going to effect them and then they get behind the wheel and drive so we do expect to see an increase in drug related DUI's," says California Highway Patrol officer Trista Drake.
Every CHP officer is trained in DUI enforcement for drugs and alcohol. Now on top of that Drake says the CHP plans to train 65 percent of its officers to become drug recognition experts through a 40 hour course. They learn how to identify which drugs people have used and the exact signs to look for.
Some people argue that smoking marijuana alone does not impair motor skills, but that's where Drake says there's a problem, "people are thinking it's natural, it's not a big deal, it's legal, but it's not okay to get behind the wheel and drive."
Driver's KION spoke with say they agree that driving under the influence of marijuana should result in a DUI. Kim Nevitt adding there is already enough distraction on the road, "You're already having to be so careful just because the number of people on the roads has increased and on top of that the attention is way down and anything that's going to add to the fact that you're not paying attention is
just going to make it worse."
Driver Carol Mahor says, "you see enough DUI's on the road as it is, and now come January first what are we gonna have? It's very dangerous."
This comes just several days after CHP Officer Andrew Camilleri was killed by a 22-year-old suspected of being high and drunk. Camilleri was a father of three and passed away on Christmas Eve.
Drake says with that in every officer's mind, it magnifies the need to get those impaired drivers off the road. "It was one of our brothers who was killed, who was taken away from his family, so I think that alone kind of makes it close to home for all of our officers to keep our eyes open and be on the look out for those impaired drivers and get them off the road."
A new campaign slogan for the CHP is "Drive High, Get a DUI," a message they hope is heard loud and clear.
Just this week the California Highway Patrol lost one of their own by a driver who they said drove drunk and was high on marijuana.
After the New Year, CHP expects more drivers to get behind the wheel high on pot when it becomes legal to buy it for recreational use. Department-wide, Officer Trista Drake said CHP plans to train 65 percent of its officers to become drug recognition experts through a 40 hour course. They learn how to identify which drugs people have used.
KION’s Ashley Keehn will have more on CHP's training at 5 and 6 p.m.