Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives recently held a panel discussion on the issue of drugged driving, a growing problem which is raising concern about the safety of travelers nationwide, particularly as marijuana becomes more accepted for medical and recreational purposes. Two central issues lawmakers were interested in at the panel were the degree of danger posed by drugged driving, as well as ways law enforcement officials can better deal with drivers who display the signs of drug influence.
Marijuana DUI testing is a controversial topic in many jurisdictions. Blood-THC levels may be used to determine if a driver is under the influence, but studies disagree about whether that level corresponds with any impairment in a person's ability to drive. One recent study showed that nearly a quarter of people tested for THC tested positive a week after abstaining from marijuana. Blood tests for drugged driving are simply an unreliable method of determining if drivers are actually impaired in their ability to operate a vehicle.
Substances for which you can be arrested for driving under the influence aren't limited to alcohol. The usual suspects include marijuana, as well as other (generally) illegal drugs. But it also includes substances that are perfectly legal. Anything that impairs your ability to drive a vehicle, including prescription drugs, can lead to a DUI arrest and prosecution.
In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration worked with off duty police to set up roadblocks and gather breath, blood and saliva samples from drivers. The NHTSA is again using roadblocks and police to study what percentage of drivers have alcohol or drugs in their systems as they drive. The study is drawing criticism this year in the face of concerns about government intrusions into the privacy of citizens. Questions have been raised about whether or not drivers would feel free to ignore a request from a police officer to pull over and supply a breath, blood or saliva sample at a roadblock.
Breathalyzers are widely used by law enforcement as a fast and easy way to judge a person's blood alcohol content. While breathalyzer tests have many deficiencies, law enforcement generally regards them as excellent evidence that a person has been drinking and driving. A new device developed in Sweden may soon expand the use of breathalyzers into the arena of driving under the influence of drugs. The new test can supposedly detect whether a driver has any one of twelve drugs in his or her system. If the test is approved here, it could greatly expand the use of breathalyzers on Illinois motorists.
Teen drivers suffer from highly elevated car accident rates, including a much higher rate of fatal crashes. A recent survey conducted by Liberty Mutual Holding Co. indicates that teen drivers may not appreciate the danger of a particular form of impaired driving: driving under the influence of marijuana. The survey questioned teen drivers about their understanding of the impact of alcohol and marijuana on the ability to drive safely. The survey revealed that a startling percentage of teens believe that marijuana either helps them drive or has no impact on their driving ability.