Michigan expands use of saliva test to detect drugged drivers

October 15, 2019

Three years after Michigan legislators authorized a pilot program for roadside testing of drug use by motorists (SB 207 and SB 434), law enforcement is taking the initiative to every county in the state. Police use the saliva of drivers to test for the presence of amphetamines, benzodiazepines, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates.

Along with this testing instrument, specially trained “drug recognition experts,” or DREs, rely on field sobriety tests and driver behavior to determine whether a person is impaired. A DRE can require a motorist to submit to the drug test. The pilot program had been limited to five counties, and Michigan State Police say a larger sample size is needed to determine the effectiveness of the oral fluid testing instrument.

The number of fatal crashes involving drivers impaired by drugs is on the rise in Michigan, police say, reaching 247 in 2018. Nationwide, in 2016, 43.6 percent of fatally injured drivers with known drug test results were drug-positive, according to the Governors Highway Safety Administration. It adds that two drug families are a particular concern among highway-safety officials: marijuana and opioids.