With so much media attention focused on preventing drunk driving this New Year’s Eve, many of us may not be aware of the toll drugged driving takes on our roads and highways. Local law enforcement has not forgotten. During the impending New Year’s Eve DUI crackdown, officers will be using a new test to catch drugged drivers, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Nationally, the incidence of individuals driving while drunk remains greater than that of those taking the wheel high: 29.1 million people driving under the influence of alcohol compared to 10.3 million driving under the influence of illicit drugs, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The number of people driving while on drugs rose 3.7 percent from the year prior, and, given that these statistics do not include prescription drugs-the abuse of which has reached “epidemic” levels in recent years-is probably much higher.
The damage these drivers are doing on the road, however, is more difficult to measure, in large part because blood tests for drugs other than alcohol are inconsistently performed. We do know from the NHTSA that 18 percent of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs in 2009.
Capable of identifying cocaine, Xanax, methamphetamine, amphetamine, narcotic analgesics, methadone, and THC in a swab of saliva, the portable drug tests, which have only been used 50 times this year so far, could not only assist law enforcement in removing drugged drivers from our roads but, if implemented more systematically, could provide a greater picture of the toll they’re taking in terms of lives lost in drug-impaired driving crashes.