Police Say Drugged Driving in Michigan is Increasing Problem
According to Michigan police statistics, drug-related traffic accidents are the highest they have been in a decade. They say this is due to both better training for officers, and a general increase in drugged driving, especially related to prescription medication.
Michigan State Police data shows that accidents involving drug use grew from from 1,581 in 2006 to 2,215 in 2015, an increase of 40%.
Analyzing ten years of data (2006-2015) has yielded some startling statistics.
- There were nearly 18,500 crashes involving drugs. These account for less than 1% of all crashes.
- Drug-related crashes caused 1,600 fatalities and 12,500 injuries.
- The most drug-related crashes occurred in Wayne County – nearly 3,500. That’s about 19% of the total crashes statewide.
- Drug-related crashes are up annually, but total crashes have decreased over the past decade. 2,977,064 traffic accidents were recorded, 105,504 of those alcohol-related. and accounted for about 3%.
- Annual crashes over the decade fell 315,978 to 296,929, about 7%. Meanwhile, alcohol-related accidents decreased from 12,644 to 9,523, a solid reduction of 24%.
After Wayne County, Oakland County came in at #2 with 2,368 accidents, and Macomb County with just over 1,800. These are three most populous counties in Michigan, and together, taccount for about 3.8 million people. Genesee County had 954, and Kent County, 693.
Drug Recognition Experts (DREs) and Drug Impairment Identification
Michigan now has nearly 100 Drug Recognition Experts (DREs), which are called in to determine if drivers are impaired, despite passing a breathalyzer. Some common drugs that may be involved are prescription painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, medical marijuana, and stimulants such as methamphetamine.
Ten years ago, there were very few DREs in Michigan. And in fact, Michigan was the 47th states to adopt the program statewide in 2010. Trained officers spend 72 hours in the classroom and even more on homework, to learn how to identify drug impairments.
The form completed by Michigan officers for a crash report is called a UD-10. If DREs are unavailable, officers can still record on the form that drug were involved. This is tricky, because when a crash site is under investigation for impairment and it’s not alcohol, an assumption may be made. The officer’s opinion is based on the driver’s appearance, behavior, etc.
Before 2016, officers were not required to indicate on a UD-10 if drugs were involved. Changes, however, require police to mark a value or results pending. This will likely yield more increases in drug-related traffic accidents, simply because the data may be more accurate. On the other hand, it may force the hands of some officers to mark values even when they are unsure of the circumstances.
Roadside Drug Testing
A 2015 bill was passed in Senate in January which would require police to design a roadside drug testing program. The test administered would be saliva-based, and in theory could check for marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs.
The bill would create a year-long pilot program in 5 counties. It was referred to the Committee on Judiciary back in March, where it sits now awaiting another reading.
Roadside testing for drugged driving is an idea that still feels like it’s on the horizon, but actually, it’s been implemented with some success. Last year, Britain reported 6 out of 10 such tests administered failed. Also, a bill similar to Michigan’s is being considered in California.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology