Over the Hill

How high is too high to drive? SLO County assemblyman wants marijuana standards

Jordan Cunningham
Jordan Cunningham

I was pleased to learn I have things in common with our new state assemblyman, Jordan Cunningham.

We both live in the North County — he in Templeton and I in Paso Robles. He’s concerned about people who might drive while under the influence of marijuana. I am, too.

Last Friday, Cunningham proposed a state law to direct the California Highway Patrol to explore the hazards of driving while under the influence of marijuana. Under this proposed law, the CHP would seek the best way to detect marijuana intoxication in drivers and decide how much to allow.

That pleased me. I, too, am worried about pot-smoking drivers killing and maiming people on our roads and freeways. Last September, I wrote a column saying I’d vote “No” on Proposition 64. That was the ballot measure that now allows the recreational use of marijuana in California.

I opposed it because it didn’t specify any limit on how high is too high to drive. I thought such a limit was essential. We already have tests and limits for alcohol in a driver’s system. But as usual, I was in the minority. Proposition 64 passed handily, 57 percent to 43 percent.

Proposition 64 did provide money for the CHP to develop standards for impairment. Assemblyman Cunningham’s bill would enable the CHP to proceed to develop those standards. Of course, his bill will first have to be approved by both houses of the state Legislature and signed by the governor. So it’s better late than never. But I’m glad that our assembly member has started the ball rolling.

And now, while I’m complimenting Assemblyman Cunningham, I’d like to also call his attention to the 7-mile stretch of Highway 101 that runs between Paso Robles and San Miguel. It has four traffic lanes divided by a wide center strip, but it isn’t a freeway.

It doesn’t have overpasses or underpasses. It has ground-level crossroads where collisions kill and maim. Since 2012, there have been at least 17 collisions on that short stretch of nonfreeway 101. They killed seven people and seriously injured several others.

Some improvements are being planned for that highway’s busiest intersection, the one at Wellsona Road. Those improvements would include new striping, roadside lights and truck-crossing signs with flashing lights, but no stop lights.

I hope Assemblyman Cunningham can find a way to improve traffic safety on that 7-mile nonfreeway. It seems to have a low priority with state officials. That stretch of Highway 101 sees only about 15,000 vehicles per day while about 70,000 pass Pismo Beach per day.

I like a suggestion that I got from a retired CHP officer. He suggested lowering the speed limit on those 7 miles to 45 mph, posting the limit on big signs and increasing CHP enforcement. That may be too sensible for government work, but it might just save lives.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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