Drugged Driving Crackdown: Michigan Police Officers to Begin Mouth Swabs in 5 Counties
Michigan is attempting to crack down on drugged driving—those who drive under the influence of a controlled substance. In 2016, Michigan enacted a 1 year pilot program limited to use in 5 counties throughout the state. The pilot program is scheduled to go into effect on November 8, 2017 in the following counties: Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair, and Washtenaw.
Under the pilot program, law enforcement officers with special training to be certified as a “certified drug recognition expert” or “DRE” who has reasonable cause to believe that a person is driving under the influence of a controlled substance may require a person to submit to a “preliminary oral fluid analysis” (i.e. a mouth swab) to test for the presence of a controlled substance. The pilot program is another tool to combat the opioid epidemic. One consequence of the epidemic is a significant increase in number of opioid-related car crash fatalities.
Refusal of the mouth swab would result in the driver being issued a civil infraction. Critics of the pilot program argue that mouth swabs are unreliable and are not an effective major of impairment. In fact, just this year, the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a study that concluded that there is no correlation between THC levels (the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) and level of impairment. Moreover, according to the NHTSA, detection of THC in the body is not a reliable indicator of impairment. This is due to the fact that the psychoactive effects of marijuana only last for a few hours, but the presence of THC can be detected for up to 30 days. In short, NHTSA concluded that there is no scientifically reliable method for detecting roadside marijuana impairment.