Police to be first in state to try new test for drug-using drivers

Police face an increasingly common challenge: how to tell if a driver is high.

As states legalize marijuana use, opioid abuse runs rampant, the methamphetamine crisis continues and new synthetic drugs hit the streets, law enforcement authorities say it’s more common than ever to encounter motorists who are under the influence.

In response, police are pioneering a new generation of chemical tests designed to detect drugs quickly in drivers’ bodies, eventually during a roadside stop. They’re like breath tests for alcohol, but they use mouth swabs to screen for at least a half dozen other drugs.

One west suburban department plans in the coming months to start testing suspect drivers for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines and opiates like heroin.

Carol Stream police, who are known for their aggressive enforcement of drunken-driving laws, say they’re expanding their attention to drugs because they see the effects on drivers but aren’t always sure which drug is involved. It’s believed to be the first agency in the state to try the new driver drug tests.

“If it’s going to be like a breath test, that’s a game-changer,” Sgt. Brian Cluever said. “If we can make our roads safer, we want to do that.”

Police in California, Colorado, Kansas and Michigan, as well as Australia and many European countries, are already using or testing such devices. But critics, like some marijuana proponents and civil rights advocates, question how well the tests work and whether they’ll be used properly.

Defense attorney Don Ramsell, for one, is skeptical. He says judges have yet to certify that the tests are accurate.

“They might just as well hand somebody a bag of nachos and see if he eats it,” said Ramsell, who specializes in driving under the influence law. “That’s just as valid.”

Ultimately, the debate over whether roadside drug tests can be used to help arrest drivers will probably end up in court.

Unprecedented rise in drugged driving

Alcohol has long been the leading mind-altering hazard on the road, involved in about 10,000 driving deaths each year. A lengthy public campaign to reduce drunken driving and increase the use of seat belts and air bags has cut the number of deaths by half since the early 1980s.

A variety of devices were invented to test drivers for alcohol, including the Drunkometer, Intoximeter and Breathalyzer. Police began widespread use of portable breath-testing devices in the 1980s.

But in 2015, for the first time, the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes nationwide who tested positive for drugs surpassed the number of drivers who had alcohol in their systems, according to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Some states that legalized marijuana use saw marked increases. After Colorado made cannabis legal for medical and recreational use, the number of drivers in fatal crashes who tested positive for marijuana more than doubled since 2013, according to published reports.

Those numbers do not prove the drivers involved were impaired, because remnants of marijuana can remain in the body for days or weeks after use. Only some of the drivers involved in crashes were tested, and the amount of drugs present might not have been enough to play a role.

But traffic officers say they increasingly see people on the road who appear to be on something — in many cases prescription drugs, which are also illegal if they impair driving.

Looking at fatal crashes in Illinois, it appears more people are driving with drugs in their systems. While the percentage of crashes involving alcohol dropped 30 percent from 2007 through last year, the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana tripled in that same time, to almost 15 percent, according to Illinois Department of Transportation figures.

As a result, companies like Draeger, headquartered in Germany, and Alere, owned by north suburban Abbott Laboratories, are marketing testing devices to law enforcement.

The companies claim a high degree of accuracy. A 2015 study in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology found the Draeger DrugTest 5000 accurately predicted the presence of a drug 93 percent of the time. But other studies have found varying degrees of success, depending on the device.

In Michigan last month, state police started a one-year pilot program of saliva roadside testing in five counties. State lawmakers passed a law authorizing the program, with a fine for drivers who refuse the test, Michigan State Police First Lt. Jim Flegel said.

Police will compare the test results from the Alere DDS2 device with a second swab that will be tested at an independent laboratory, and with a blood draw, which if refused can lead to a license suspension. The program is off to a promising start, and if testing proves accurate after one year, it can be continued and expanded to other counties, and hopefully ultimately introduced as evidence in court, Flegel said.

A ‘game-changer’

Under current Illinois law, police may seek a blood, urine or breath sample if they suspect a driver is impaired by a controlled substance, and a driver can face a one-year license suspension for refusing. But such tests are cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming, often requiring a trip to the hospital, and often take an hour or two, by which time the body may have eliminated the drug.

In contrast, the new type of test is designed to be easy, quick and portable. And rather than simply giving a positive or negative result, as many current blood tests do, the device that Carol Stream police plan to test, called P.I.A.2 , gives measurements for the amount of drugs present.

That’s important, because while Illinois used to define impairment as having any amount of cannabis or other controlled substance in the body, last year lawmakers raised that minimum threshold to 5 nanograms per milliliter in the blood, and 10 ng/mL in other bodily fluids.

But the Illinois State Police crime laboratory is not certified to give such precise measurements, and local police agencies say it can take months to process a request. Therefore, police sometimes send samples to private labs, which can be quicker but also costlier.

That’s where the new field test comes in. For drivers who submit to a blood draw, Carol Stream police plan to ask them also to volunteer for the mouth swab, not for use in court, but simply to compare its accuracy to the lab test. The department plans to conduct at least 100 comparisons over the next year, beginning around March.

Testing devices can cost $3,000 to $6,000, but the manufacturer of the unit in question, a German company called Protzek, will provide it for free to the village. Officials claim its accuracy is comparable to state-of-the-art laboratory techniques.

Len Jonker, president of Judicial Testing Systems, the distributor for Protzek here, said he is in talks about supplying the device to other law enforcement agencies in Illinois as well.

The tests have been challenged in some state courts but have been upheld as a preliminary step to establish probable cause to make an arrest, according to the National District Attorneys Association.

Still, the tests cannot yet be used as conclusive evidence in court, and still require a blood draw for confirmation, the prosecutors reported.

Dan Linn, executive director of the marijuana advocacy group Illinois NORML, said he welcomes the test for accuracy.

“We advocate for legalizing cannabis, but that does not mean we advocate people driving impaired by cannabis,” he said. “The bigger question is, who is driving impaired, and who just has cannabis in their systems.”

Illinois law has zero tolerance for driving on controlled substances other than marijuana, meaning any amount is enough to convict someone of DUI.

Yet unlike alcohol, which has been shown to cause impairment at a blood alcohol level of 0.08, no numeric levels have been established to show impairment from various drugs, because their effects vary so widely from person to person, depending in part on the user’s tolerance.

That’s why Linn believes it’s better to have trained police officers try to assess from direct observations whether a driver is impaired.

Police and prosecutors agree, and for that reason call for more training of officers as drug recognition experts, or DREs. While the standard field sobriety test — where drivers are asked to walk in a straight line and turn around, stand on one leg and close their eyes and touch their nose — was designed primarily to detect the influence of alcohol, the DRE test uses more subtle signs to try to detect drugs.

Dilated or constricted pupils, incomplete or repetitive speech, tremors in the eyelids or hands, odors, high pulse or body temperature, nervousness or lack of inhibition may all be considered signs of impairment from various drugs.

Processing a DUI arrest is time-consuming, and the new law that set the cannabis intoxication standard on driving under the influence states that police must take a blood sample within two hours. Police say that’s often impractical or impossible, especially in rural areas far from a hospital.

That’s why interest is so high in finding a quick technological fix.

‘If they can prove it … then bring it’

Police are free to try out drug-detecting devices, but to get them authorized for use as evidence, they typically have to be assessed by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, then be approved as administrative rules changes by the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules, state police Master Sgt. Matthew Boerwinkle said. That process could take months or years.

In addition, to be accepted in court, any new type of scientific evidence in Illinois generally must pass a Frye test, a judicial hearing to establish whether the technique is generally accepted as reliable by the scientific community in that field.

But Ramsell, the DUI attorney, cautions that many types of prior forensics evidence, from shoe prints to bite marks to signs of arson, have been undermined, and any new test deserves rigorous research by scientists, not police.

“If they want to turn citizens into rhesus monkeys, I am not volunteering,” Ramsell said. “But I’m all for science. If they can prove it in court, then bring it.”

He also accused police of wanting to raise more money in court fines. Last year, Carol Stream, which prosecutes many DUI cases itself, reported collecting $261,000 in court fines from DUI cases, plus another $300,000 in towing fees and $363,000 in circuit court fines for a variety of offenses.

While suburban police do not have to fight the amount of violent crime seen in Chicago, Cluever said his officers prioritize aggressive traffic stops to save lives and prevent other crimes, not to raise revenue. Initially, the tests will be done at the police station, but eventually, officers hope to use them on the roadside.

“If you’re driving impaired,” Cluever said, “we’re doing everything we can to keep you off the road.”

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/ct-met-police-drug-driving-test-20171205-story,amp.html

A plume of marijuana smoke, erratic driving lead to arrest in Westport on drugged driver charge

WESTPORT — Police arrested an Acushnet man on charges of driving under the influence of marijuana after a motor vehicle stop Monday night in Westport.

The arresting Westport officer, Jarrod Levesque, is a certified Drug Recognition Expert trained to focus on drug-related impairments, said Westport police Detective Jeff Majewski.

“DREs are becoming more valuable in recent months since marijuana legalization has increased recreational drug use, which has carried over to an increase locally of drugged driving,” Majewski said in prepared remarks.

Majewski said Raymond Morin, 35, of 16 Helen St. in Acushnet, was charged with operating under the influence of drugs and issued a $500 dollar violation for having an open container of marijuana inside a vehicle.

Around 7:35 p.m. on Monday, Majewski said Levesque observed a vehicle traveling west on State Road with its left directional on for several hundred feet passing four possible turn offs or breaks in the median. The vehicle was traveling approximately 28 miles per hour in a posted 55-mile-per-hour zone, Majewski said.

At the intersection of Gifford Road and State Road, Majewski said the operator turned south onto Gifford Road. Just as he passed the driveway to CVS, Morin then allegedly stopped his vehicle abruptly in the travel lane blocking the road.

Levesque approached the driver, who when he lowered the window “a cloud of marijuana smoke plumed from the vehicle.” Majewski said the officer also saw marijuana crumbs and residue in the driver’s lap.

Morin allegedly had difficulty producing his Registry of Motor Vehicle documents and was instructed to exit the vehicle to perform roadside assessment tests. Morin told the officer that he had smoked a marijuana blunt. He was arrested when he failed the sobriety tests, Majewski said.

Inside Morin’s vehicle, the police located a small quantity of marijuana in a Tupperware container, Majewski said.

Majewski said Levesque completed an in-depth evaluation of Morin. Majewski said indicators of drug impairment include the presence of body tremors, eyelid tremors, poor perception of time and distance, dilated pupils, elevated blood pressure, elevated pulse and poor completion of hand eye coordination assessments.

http://www.heraldnews.com/news/20171212/plume-of-marijuana-smoke-erratic-driving-lead-to-arrest-in-westport-on-drugged-driver-charge

Cannabis sales must avoid mistakes made by alcohol deregulation

University of Alberta professor Dr. Elaine Hyshka says the Alberta government needs to make sure it sets proper regulations for looming cannabis legalization.

University of Alberta professor Dr. Elaine Hyshka says the Alberta government needs to make sure it sets proper regulations for looming cannabis legalization. (The Canadian Press)

As the province begins developing a framework for legalizing cannabis, a University of Alberta doctor said she hopes Alberta learns from past mistakes with alcohol deregulation.

Dr. Elaine Hyshka said the government has some decisions to make before legalization takes place on July 1.

“I’ll be watching to see how government maintains control over things like price, advertising and marketing, the density of outlets and other factors that really are critical for really trying to encourage moderate use,” Hyshka told CBC’s Radio Active Wednesday.

Hyshka is speaking at the University of Alberta Thursday about what the Cannabis Act means for Canadians. The presentation at 5 p.m. will be livestreamed on their website.

She said Alberta’s cannabis price point can’t be so low people are encouraged to use it, nor can it be so high that users turn to the black market for cheaper prices.

Ontario has proposed a $10 per gram price, which, with the proposed federal tax plan, would cost $11 in Alberta. A mid-level dealer in Calgary told CBC News in October that he typically sells for anywhere between $6 and $8 a gram.

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci has rejected the federal cannabis tax plan and the Alberta government has not set a price yet.

Hyshka said she’ll also be watching how many stores selling cannabis will be allowed in a particular area. She said the amount of liquor stores on every corner, some of which are open until 2 a.m., is a mistake the government shouldn’t repeat.

Elaine Hyshka

Hyshka says restrictions should be placed on marketing and advertising cannabis. (CBC )

“Although cannabis as a substance is less harmful than alcohol, we’d be wanting to see some new restrictions put in place that really set the standard for how we regulate psychoactive substances,” she said.

She also hopes marketing of the product is restricted to prevent influencing a new generation of cannabis users.

“[Hopefully, we] don’t go out of the way to stimulate a new market or stimulate a new demand for what is not a harmless substance,” she said.

Cannabis still ‘liberally available’

Hyshka said that though there are documented benefits of cannabis, such as for those in chronic pain, that doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful — or, in the case of impaired driving, dangerous.

But she said concerns raised recently by the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police about impaired driving, while valid, are not new.

“It’s important to remember that cannabis is liberally available right now through the illegal market and many people are using it and some people are driving while impaired,” she said.

“Enforcing cannabis impaired driving or other sorts of infractions is not new.”

But Hyshka and the police chiefs place importance on a common, primary goal: discouraging those who don’t use cannabis from starting.

“I think that’s a main objective,” she said. “[And] if you are going to engage in cannabis use, how can you do so responsibly in a way that is going to try to, as much as possible, protect your health.”

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/cannabis-marketing-advertising-legalization-1.4415063

Health warnings, plain covers for pot packs under proposed regs

OTTAWA — Health Canada offered hints Tuesday about the government’s plans for legal pot, including, plain packaging and stern, stark health warnings like those found on tobacco products.

The department released a set of proposed regulations that, among other things, would limit colours and graphics on cannabis packs and establish a system to trace pot through the distribution system.

It said the warnings should highlight risks, including the dangers associated with cannabis use during pregnancy, drug-impaired driving and what can happen when alcohol is mixed with marijuana.

The department’s so-called consultation paper is now open to public feedback for the next two months.

Speaking outside the House of Commons, Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the government is studying other proposals including a tracking system to monitor the cannabis supply chain and help prevent pot being diverted into and out of the legal market.

Health Canada also said Tuesday the proposals seek to elaborate on elements including what can be displayed on a package and what can’t, including anything that might entice youngsters.

“Text and graphics used in brand elements could not be appealing to youth and would be subject to the packaging and labelling restrictions in the proposed Cannabis Act,” the department said.

“Health Canada is also considering establishing standards (such as limiting use of colour and size) of these brand elements.”

Government officials said late Tuesday the proposals attempt to elaborate on what can be displayed on a package to ensure the legal industry can keep itself distinct from the black market, while competing with it.

Producers would be allowed to display brand elements, the officials confirmed, saying they are talking to legal producers about packaging.

The officials also said Health Canada sees its plans as consistent with what the federally appointed task force on pot legalization recommended: plain and standard packaging.

The proposed regulations would also require that cannabis workers get valid security clearances issued by the minister of health. Individuals with connections to organized crime, or criminal records or shady associates could be denied clearances.

Earlier Tuesday, Statistics Canada said it plans to start measuring the economic and social impacts of recreational pot — even before it becomes legal.

The agency said it wants to gradually develop the capabilities to capture and report information on non-medical cannabis.

It says collecting data both before and after marijuana becomes legal will allow Canadians, governments and businesses to form a clearer picture of the economic and social consequences of lawful pot.

The Liberals also faced criticism from the opposition Tuesday for limiting debate on their cannabis legislation, which is currently before the House of Commons.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould defended the move, saying the government has long been up front with the House and with Canadians about the plan to legalize pot by July 2018.

Health warnings, plain covers for pot packs under proposed regs

Many People Don’t Seem To Know That Taking Prescription Drugs Could Impair Their Driving

More than 45 million Americans will travel by car over the Thanksgiving holiday, AAA predicts, and a new study suggests that about one out of five of those behind the wheel will have taken a prescription drug that could impair their driving.

On top of that, many of them aren’t aware of the risk.

The study authors used data from the most recent National Roadside Survey (NRS), conducted in 2013-2014 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to determine what proportion of drivers had been warned that the medication their doctor prescribed could impair their performance. Data were collected from randomly selected drivers at 60 different U.S. locations.

Shutterstock

Drivers 16 and older were eligible to participate in the voluntary, anonymous survey about alcohol and drug use. Those who agreed to be surveyed were also asked to provide a breath sample to measure alcohol content and a saliva sample for drug testing.

The 2013-2014 NRS was the second to ask drivers about drug use but the first to ask whether the drug had been prescribed for them and, if so, whether they’d been warned that it could impair their driving. Those who reported taking a prescribed, potentially impairing medication within the previous two days were then asked if they had been warned that it could affect their driving.

These are the categories of potentially impairing prescription drugs covered by the survey and some examples of them:

  • Antidepressants (Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin).
  • Methadone and buprenorphine (Subutex, Suboxone), opioids that are used in medication-assisted treatment of substance use disorders.
  • Morphine or codeine, which are prescription opioids for pain.
  • Other prescription opioids (OxyContin and Vicodin), also used to treat pain.
  • Barbiturates (phenobarbital).
  • Benzodiazepines, which are tranquilizers (Xanax and Valium).
  • Muscle relaxants (Soma and Flexeril).
  • Sleep aids (Ambien and Lunesta).
  • ADHD medications (Ritalin, Aderall and Concerta).
  • Other amphetamines (Benzadrine and Dexedrine).
  • Prescription diet pills (Tenuate and phentermine).

Except for the last three types of drugs, the medications on this list could impair drivers by sedating them. Experimental studies have shown that certain tranquilizers have a substantially higher risk of impairment than alcohol and that opioids have a risk comparable to that of alcohol, the researchers write.

On the other hand, ADHD medications and other amphetamines as well as prescription diet pills are stimulants, which can influence attention, aggressiveness and risk-taking, the study authors write. You likely won’t fall asleep behind the wheel if you take a stimulant, but you could end up taking unnecessary risks while driving.

A total of 7,405 drivers answered the prescription drug questions on the NRS, and 19.7% of them reported taking a potentially impairing prescription drug within the previous two days. Of those who had, four out of five of them, or 78.2%, to be exact, said the drug had been prescribed for them, so there had been an opportunity for a physician or a pharmacist to talk about the risk of impaired driving.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ritarubin/2017/11/21/many-people-dont-seem-to-know-that-taking-prescription-drugs-could-impair-their-driving/#26429d5e35c4

Man arrested, alleged to have had over 1 lb. of marijuana, DUID

A Fort Collins, Colorado man is facing charges of felony Possession of a Controlled Substance- Marijuana in Natrona County, after Troopers say they found over a pound of marijuana in his vehicle.According to court paperwork 33-year-old Ira Whitney was taken into custody, during the late night hours of November 16th.

Highway Patrol Troopers say that Whitney was observed driving a black Pontiac G6, on I-25, near milepost 184. Reports say that the Pontiac was observed going 90 mph, in a posted 80 mph zone.

Troopers say that they further observed the Pontiac fail to maintain it’s lane of travel while driving.

A stop was initiated and an arrest affidavit says that when the Pontiac pulled over it struck the curb, and the driver stopped the car with the vehicle’s front passenger tire parked on the curb.

Troopers contacted Whitney and note that they could smell an odor of marijuana and alcohol about the suspect’s person. Troopers also report seeing a black canister labeled “THC,” and a multi-colored glass pipe with suspected marijuana in the bowl. The affidavit says that both the canister and the pipe were in plain view on the passenger seat.

When questioned, Troopers say that Whitney admitted to having a gram of marijuana in the vehicle, and saying that his last drink had been a rum and cola, at a bar in Fort Collins, two hours before the stop. Whitney further advised that he worked at the bar.

Whitney was taken into custody, and a subsequent search of the vehicle yielded an open Bud Light bottle that was described as “cool to the touch,” found in between the passenger seat and center console. Further, Troopers report finding a six pack of Bud Light in the car, with two of the bottles removed.

In the trunk of the vehicle Troopers discovered approximately 1.2 pounds of suspected marijuana, divided up between four separately packaged vacuum sealed bags.

After a field sobriety test, Whitney was placed under arrest just after midnight.

During his initial appearance in Natrona County Circuit Court, Whitney was charged with Felony Possession of Marijuana and Driving While Under the Influence. Whitney’s bond was set at $10,000 cash or surety.

All of those cited or arrested are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law. Charges are subject to change following official filings from the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office.

https://oilcitywyo.com/

Medical-marijuana doctor arrested

Medical-marijuana doctor arrested
Dr. Richard J. D’Amico

PLATTSBURGH — The only physician in Clinton County authorized to prescribe medical marijuana has been charged with driving while under the influence of drugs.

Dr. Richard D’Amico, 48, of Plattsburgh was arrested Friday, Nov. 10, and charged with driving while his ability was impaired by drugs, a misdemeanor, after a traffic stop on the downtown stretch of Margaret Street.

Plattsburgh City Police Lt. Bradley Kiroy said a plainclothes police officer reported to Plattsburgh City Police that he saw D’Amico park his car and get out and that he was visibly intoxicated.

When officers arrived around 9:54 p.m., D’Amico was pulling out of the parking space and heading north on Margaret Street.

They saw him swerve from his lane without using his turn signal, Kiroy said.

Police pulled D’Amico over and had a blood test performed.

“The results of the test have not been returned,” Kiroy said.

Besides the DWAI charge, D’Amico was ticketed for failure to keep right on a two-lane road and failure to use his turning signal.

He was held and then arraigned the next morning in Plattsburgh City Court before Judge Mark Rogers, then released on his own recognizance.

D’Amico could not be reached for comment Friday. His lawyer, Patrick McFarlin, said his client had no comment on the arrest.

D’Amico is due back in court on Thursday, Dec. 21.

http://www.pressrepublican.com/news/local_news/medical-marijuana-doctor-arrested/article_826ecbba-3e59-5f3c-8274-05a46832984d.html

Driving While Stoned: The Penalties and Gray Area in Marijuana Law

smoking a joint

As of November 2017, some 29 states had legalized marijuana for medicinal use. By 2018, eight of those states will allow the recreational use of pot, too. Add in the millions of Americans who smoke weed illegally and you have a small army of stoned individuals hanging out in public at all hours.

At your local bar or drum circle, that’s not a problem. On the other hand, when driving your kids home from school, you don’t want to run into a guy who just took a round of bong hits. Likewise, marijuana users need to know the risks they face if they get behind the wheel high. State penalties for stoned driving are mostly as harsh as they are for drunk driving. Nothing kills a buzz like 120 days without your license or $1,500 in fines.

However, there is no “pot breathalyzer” yet, and officers usually need special training necessary to otherwise judge intoxication via weed. Overall, confusion reigns, and the arrests of people who hadn’t used marijuana before driving have made the situation worse. Here’s what everyone needs to know about pot and driving, down to the gray areas in the law.

1. The risks of driving while high

While there is agreement among scientists that driving under the influence of marijuana creates a more dangerous situation, there is no consensus of just how much danger. A 2016 paper from the Society for the Study of Addiction found the increase in crash risk “of low to medium magnitude.” That assessment scaled back some of the hyperventilating following the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Even government agencies have a hard time saying how marijuana affects motorists. In February 2015, NHTSA released a study on alcohol and drug use among drivers. Once again, they found clear evidence of impairment among drunk drivers, down to the degree. Drug users proved harder to gauge. “At the current time, specific drug concentration levels cannot be reliably equated with a specific degree of driver impairment,” the report concluded.

Source: Driving While Stoned: The Penalties and Gray Area in Marijuana Law

Police to begin roadside drug testing pilot program Nov. 8

(WXYZ) – In an effort to combat the dangers of drugged driving, five Michigan counties will participate in a one-year oral fluid roadside drug testing pilot program by Michigan State Police.

The counties include Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties.

The Preliminary Oral Fluid Analysis pilot program will establish policies for the administration of roadside drug testing to determine whether an individual is operating a vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance.

Over the last several years, Michigan has seen a steady increase in fatal crashes involving drivers impaired by drugs. In 2016, there were 236 drug-involved traffic fatalities.

“Motorists under the influence of drugs pose a risk to themselves and others on the road,” said MSP Director Col. Kriste Etue. “With drugged driving on the rise, law enforcement officers need an effective tool to assist in making these determinations during a traffic stop.”

The counties were chosen based on criteria including number of impaired driving crashed, impaired drivers arrested and trained Drug Recognition Experts in the county.

Under the pilot program, a DRE may require a person to submit to a preliminary oral fluid analysis to detect the presence of a controlled substance in the person’s body if they suspect the driver is impaired by drugs.

Refusal to submit to a preliminary oral fluid analysis upon lawful demand of a police officer is a civil infraction.

http://www.wxyz.com/news/michigan-state-police-to-begin-roadside-drug-testing-pilot-program-nov-8

Many prescription drug users not aware of driving-related risks

A large portion of patients taking prescription drugs that could affect driving may not be aware they could potentially be driving impaired, according to research in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Nearly 20 percent of people in the study reported recent use of a prescription medication with the potential for impairment, but not all said they were aware that the medication could affect their driving, despite the potential for receiving warnings from their doctor, their pharmacist, or the medication label itself.

The percentages of those who said they had received a warning from one of those sources varied by type of medication: 86 percent for sedatives, 85 percent for narcotics, 58 percent for stimulants, and 63 percent for antidepressants.

In the report, researchers used data from the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey, which asked drivers randomly selected at 60 sites across the United States questions about drug use, including prescription drugs. A total of 7,405 drivers completed the prescription drug portion of the survey.

Although it is unclear if the study participants actually received the warnings, or if they did receive the warnings but didn’t retain the information, the authors say this scenario is in need of further research.

“We were very surprised that our study was the first we could find on this topic,” says lead researcher Robin Pollini, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University. “It’s a pretty understudied area, and prescription drugs are a growing concern.”

In this study, the type of medication in question was also related to drivers’ perceptions about their impairment risk. They were most likely to think that sleep aids were the most likely to affect safe driving, followed by morphine/codeine, other amphetamines, and muscle relaxants. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications were viewed as least likely to affect driving risk. Sleep aids were also viewed as the most likely to cause an accident or result in criminal charges, and ADHD medications were viewed as the least likely.

Pollini says she hopes this research will lead to increased warnings provided by doctors and pharmacists, as well as improved labeling for medications that are likely to impair driving. She says it’s not yet clear what the optimum messaging would be. But she is encouraged by the fact that patients who are prescribed these medications have several points at which they could receive this important information.

“The vast majority of drivers who are recent users of prescription drugs that have the potential for impairment have come into contact with a physician, a pharmacist, and a medication label,” says Pollini. “There’s an opportunity here that’s not being leveraged: to provide people with accurate information about what risks are associated with those drugs. People can then make informed decisions about whether they’re able to drive.”

A related commentary by Benedikt Fischer, Ph.D., of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, and colleagues expresses concern that increased warnings and interventions may be insufficient to reduce the chances of driving while impaired. These authors point to the issue of alcohol-impaired driving to suggest that only deterrence-based measures–such as roadside testing, license suspensions, and increased insurance premiums–have the potential to change behavior.

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To arrange an interview with Robin Pollini, Ph.D., M.P.H., please contact Kimberly Becker at 304.293.1699 or Kimberly.Becker@hsc.wvu.edu.

Pollini, R. A., Waehrer, G., & Kelley-Baker, T. (November 2017). Receipt of warnings regarding potentially impairing prescription medications and associated risk perceptions in a national sample of U.S. drivers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 78(6), 805-813. doi:10.15288/jsad.2017.78.805

Fischer, B., Fidalgo, T., & Varatharajan, T. (November 2017). Reflections on Pollini et al. (2017)–Implications for interventions for driving while using psychotropic medications with impairment risk. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 78(6), 814-816. doi:10.15288/jsad.2017.78.814

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs is published by the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. It is the oldest substance-related journal published in the United States.

To learn about education and training opportunities for addiction counselors and others at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies, please visit AlcoholStudiesEd.rutgers.edu.

Source: Many prescription drug users not aware of driving-related risks | EurekAlert! Science News