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NTSB calls for standard roadside drug test for drivers

The National Transportation Safety Board has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to encourage the development of a standardized roadside test that police officers in South Carolina and around the country can use to determine if drivers are impaired by drugs. The NTSB says that the lack of such a test is one of the reasons drug-impaired driving is surging in the United States. Other factors include a deepening opioid crisis and more liberal marijuana laws.

Toxicology tests performed on motorists killed in traffic accidents reveal that the problem of drug impairment on the roads has grown worryingly in recent years. Evidence of drug use was found in only 30 percent of these tests in 2006, but that figure grew to 46 percent in 2015, according to the NTSB. The agency is also calling for comprehensive training programs to be put into place to help police officers better identify drivers who may be under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs.

NHTSA responded to the NTSB's Oct. 16 statement by saying that it is aware of the problem and is taking steps to find a solution. The government safety administration has held public meetings recently to discuss the issue in Washington, Tennessee and Maryland. Furthermore, messages about the dangers of drug impairment are now being incorporated into the NHTSA's drunk driving advertising campaigns.

Scientists say that developing a standard roadside test to identify drug impairment may not be possible because drugs do not affect the body in the same way as alcohol. Blood alcohol concentrations are clear evidence of alcohol intoxication, but this is not always the case with drugs such as marijuana. This is why experienced criminal defense attorneys may seek to have DUI charges based solely on toxicology tests reduced or dismissed entirely.

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