Drugged driving – driving while under the influence of drugs rather than alcohol – has received a lot of recent attention from law enforcement.
In 2017, a pilot program for a roadside saliva drug test was tested in five counties. This program involved the use of a quick drug test designed to see if a driver had certain drugs in their system. The test is similar to a preliminary breath test for alcohol. The test gives the police probable cause to make an arrest for an OWI.
This year the use of the roadside saliva test will expand statewide.
Results of the Roadside Saliva Test
Here are the number of arrests by county for the initial pilot program:
- Berrien – 23
- Delta – 3
- Kent – 12
- St. Clair – 3
- Washtenaw – 52
Is Drugged Driving on the Rise in Washtenaw County?
One Washtenaw Sheriff’s Deputy trained to detect drugged drivers stated drugged driving is on the rise. For Washtenaw County, in 2018, 81 traffic stops were based on drugged driving. In 2019 so far, 28 people have been pulled over for drugged driving. Statewide, drugged driving arrests are up 15%.
This begs the question – are more people driving while impaired by drugs or are police noticing and enforcing against drugged drivers more? Probably the latter.
The use of the roadside saliva test focuses enforcement on drugged drivers. In addition, more officer are trained as so-called “drug recognition evaluators,” officers looking for drivers who are impaired by drugs. The stepped up enforcement and education of officers may be the cause for the increased arrests. There is an increased recognition by officers of drivers impaired by prescription medications, as well.
So while drugged driving arrests have increased, it’s not necessarily true that more people are driving under the influence of drugs. It may just be that more officers are on the lookout for those drivers.
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Sam Bernstein is a Criminal Law Attorney in Ann Arbor.
ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI.