Roadside drug testing program expands in Michigan

December 2019/January 2020

Mark Schremmer

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After conducting a roadside drug testing pilot program in five counties, Michigan is expanding the program statewide.

The program allows “drug recognition experts” to give roadside saliva tests to any drivers suspected of being under the influence of such drugs as marijuana, cocaine and heroin. The pilot program, which uses a mouth swab to obtain the saliva, started in Berrien, Delta, Kent, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties. According to the Michigan State Police, a drug training expert “receives additional, highly specialized training to assist in identifying drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.”

After conclusion of the five-county pilot program, which took place from November 2017 until November 2018, the Michigan State Police recommended that the program expand to the entire state.

Statewide expansion began Oct. 1.

From Nov. 8, 2017 until Nov. 8, 2018, 92 saliva roadside drug tests were conducted in those five counties. Eighty-nine drivers were arrested from those drug tests.

While the program is geared toward all vehicles, it was inspired by a 2013 crash, when a truck driver ran a red light and struck a vehicle, resulting in the death of two people. The truck driver, Harley Davidson Durocher, was found guilty of six felonies, including two counts of operating a motor vehicle with the presence of a controlled substance (marijuana).

In addition, the Michigan State Police said drug-impaired traffic fatalities in the state had increased by 151% from 98 in 2007 to 246 in 2017.

In December 2018, Michigan lawmakers approved an additional $626,000 to expand the program across the state. The statewide pilot program is scheduled to continue until Sept. 30.

“This additional, statewide data will help to determine the usefulness of this tool for law enforcement, as we work to get drug-impaired drivers off Michigan roads,” said Lt. Col. Richard Arnold, commander of the Michigan State Police Field Operations Bureau. LL

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Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and nearly two decades of journalism experience to our staff.