Governor Snyder Approves Bills Creating Pilot Program for Roadside Drug Testing
On June 27, 2016, Governor Rick Snyder signed two bills authorizing the creation of a one-year long pilot program to investigate whether or not a roadside testing program involving saliva testing for drivers who are suspected to be under the influence of drugs would be accurate and reliable.
Under the new program, if a police officer at a traffic stop suspects a driver is under the influence of drugs, they would be able to call an officer who is a trained Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) to the scene to administer a saliva test to check for the presence of drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine in the driver’s system. The saliva test would be treated as an addition to the 12-step evaluation process currently used by DREs to check for potential drug use. The Michigan State Police will be in charge of creating a written policy for this program and will select five counties to test the new program in.
The new program is the result of Senate Bills 207 and 434, which were introduced by Senators Rick Jones and Tom Casperson in January 2016. These bills are now known as the Barbara J. and Thomas J. Swift Law, in memory of a couple that was killed in 2013 after their car was hit by a tractor-trailer being operated by a driver under the influence of marijuana. The driver of the tractor-trailer was later sentenced to a minimum of five years and five months in prison after being convicted of operating while intoxicated causing death. Following the death of Barbara and Thomas Swift, their son Brian took action by contacting Casperson to see about what could be done to keep drugged drivers off the road.
Casperson says the bills are intended to create a drug testing procedure similar to what we have in place for drunk drivers. Although procedures already exist for testing drivers for drugs, drug testing currently doesn’t happen roadside the way it does for suspected drunk drivers. He hopes this new legislation will help speed up the testing process. Casperson acknowledges that developing a fast, reliable procedure for testing drivers for drugs on the roadside may take time, but told reporters, “We’ve got to start somewhere. We’ve got to come up with a good way to do it right.”
Finding ways to reduce the number of drugged drivers on the road is a subject that’s on the mind of many Michigan road safety experts. Just a few months before these bills were signed by Governor Snyder, statistics were released that showed an alarming increase in the number of Michigan car accidents that involve drug impairment. Between 2006 and 2015, the number of car accidents involving drugs rose 40%. During those years, 1,603 people were killed as a result of a drug-related car accident and 12,544 people were injured.