Michigan State Police Launching Roadside Drug Testing

By McCarton Ackerman 07/21/16

The roadside saliva test is part of a pilot program that will run in five Michigan counties later this year. 

Michigan State Police Launching Roadside Drug Testing

Michigan State Police are set to crack down on drug-using drivers by implementing saliva-based roadside testing in five counties.

The testing is part of a pilot program and set to launch later this year, MLive reported. Special First Lt. David Kaiser, a spokesman for the Michigan State Police, said that the test will be added to the existing 12-step evaluation program currently used. The selected counties will be chosen based on the number of people arrested for DUIs, the number of crashes, and total number of drug recognition experts in the county. Both the saliva analysis and 12-step evaluation will only be conducted by drug recognition experts.

"The test [that] drug recognition experts do are everything from taking blood pressure, looking at your respiration, looking at your pupil sizes to see whether they're pin-pointed or dilated," explained Kaiser.

This initiative was spurred in part by the new "Barbara J. and Thomas J. Swift Law," which was signed last month by Gov. Rick Snyder. The couple was killed in 2013 by a man driving a tractor-trailer while under the influence of cannabis.

Drug use continues to remain a significant problem throughout the country. In June 2011, a study showed that 25% of people killed in single-vehicle car crashes tested positive for drugs. Thirty-seven percent of the victims displayed blood alcohol levels over the .08 legal limit. Of those who tested positive for drugs other than alcohol, most tested for marijuana (22.7%) and stimulants (22.5%).

In 2014, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 10 million people age 12 or older had used an illicit drug before driving in the past 12 months. That same study showed in 2010 that over 25% of drugged drivers in deadly crashes were over the age of 50. Researchers hypothesized that many of these instances of intoxication are unintended, noting that older adults often don’t break down drugs in their system as quickly as younger adults.

Perhaps surprisingly, driving stoned is even more common than driving drunk among high school and college students. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that in 2009, 1 in 3 college students who smoked in the past month had gotten behind the wheel while high, while 1 in 8 high school seniors who smoked in the past two weeks had done the same. High school seniors who smoke marijuana are also 65% more likely to get into a car crash than those who don't smoke, according to the NIDA.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.