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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

NTSB calls for action to curb drug-imapired driving

Drug impairment has become an increasingly serious road safety issue in recent years, and the National Transportation Safety Board has called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take steps to address the problem. In an Oct. 16 statement, the agency called for standards to be written for a standardized roadside test that could be used by police officers across the country to identify drug-impaired drivers. A deepening opioid crisis and recreational marijuana laws like the one passed in California are thought to be largely responsible for the surge in drug-related road deaths.

The NTSB was prompted to issue its statement after investigating a car accident that claimed 13 lives in Texas in 2017. Video footage shows a pickup truck swerving across the roadway before striking a church bus head-on. Toxicology tests revealed that the pickup truck's driver was under the influence of cannabis at the time of the crash.

Tests performed on blood drawn from drivers who died in fatal accidents suggests that the problem is a growing one. In 2006, traces of prescription or illegal drugs were found in less than one in three of these tests. By 2015, that figure had risen to a worrying 46 percent. The issue is challenging for law enforcement because motorists can be under the influence of a host of legal and illegal substances that can affect drivers in a variety of ways.

Questioning the results of toxicology tests is a common DUI defense strategy, and it could be particularly effective when marijuana impairment is alleged. THC does not affect the body in the same way as alcohol, and high levels of the cannabinoid may linger in the blood long after its intoxicating effects have waned. When police officers are not able to establish that a driver with elevated THC levels used marijuana recently, an experienced criminal defense attorney may seek to have the DUI charges dismissed.

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