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Push for Legislation to Fund Technology to Test Drugged Drivers

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Stop Drugged Driving logoDrugged driving is on the rise, causing many serious accidents, and police have no way to test for it, say U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who are calling for passage of legislation. The legislation, the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Improvement Act of 2011, otherwise known as Mariah’s Act of 2011, would provide $140 million to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to allow scientists — for the first time — to develop technologies to help identify drugged drivers. It would also provide funds to help states increase training of officers to spot the tell-tale signs of drugged drivers, a Schumer press release says.

According to an Associated Press article in USA TODAY, the senators cite a 2009 federal report finding that 10.5 million Americans acknowledge having driven under the influence of drugs, and that NHTSA found that a third of 12,055 drivers tested who died in car crashes had used drugs.

And Schumer’s press release says:

The scourge of drugged driving is also having a serious impact on America’s youth. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs showed that 30% of high school seniors reported that they have either driven under the influence of drugs themselves, or been a passenger in a car driven by a drugged driver.

The New York Daily News reports: “If people next year knew that they’d be tested for drugged driving just like they are tested for drunk driving, it might deter them from doing it to begin with and save lives,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters.

In New York State alone, drugged driving arrests have increased 35% since 2001, Schumer says, in a period when prescription drug abuse is becoming epidemic. “Despite the growth in drugged driving arrests over the last 10 years, however, the total number of arrests pale in comparison to drunk driving arrests, in large part because of the difficulty in identifying drugged drivers on the road,” Schumer’s press release says.

Unlike drunk driving, which police can test for with breathalyzers, police departments do not have the technology to detect drugged drivers, who do not always demonstrate the same level of disorientation that drunk drivers do. That makes it more difficult for police to identify drivers who are under the influence of narcotics during routine traffic stops.

“Drugged driving is on the rise and our cops need state-of-the-art equipment and better training to identify and apprehend those who are putting innocent victims at risk as a result of their reckless behavior,” Schumer said.

Image by Stop Drugged Driving, used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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