Kentucky Considering Roadside Drug Testing
State officials in Kentucky are taking a proactive approach to minimizing the amount of traffic incidents caused by drivers under the influence as they launch a new program that will enable law enforcement agencies to conduct roadside drug tests. A $25,000 state grant was approved to finance the program, enabling three law enforcement agencies across the state to participate.
The new drug testing method comes at the perfect time as authorities grow increasingly concerned over the growing rate of drug and alcohol related traffic incidents, which resulted in more than 200 deaths, 939 injuries and 1,600 collisions last year.
Louisville Metro Police, Major Kelly Jones, said of the roadside drug tests, “It would be just one of the tools used to determine whether or not a person is under the influence. The goal of the swabbing for the state is to make the swab what the portable breathalyzer test is to drunk driving.”
Rather than having to wait on the results of blood, hair and urine drug tests, the program’s roadside drug testing kits can be conducted with ease and a bit of saliva. The results are then available within a matter of six minutes and can detect up to 10 different drugs. The speed of the tests and wide range of substances tested for aid officers in removing dangerous drivers from the roads as well as clearing drivers suspected of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. All in all, it’s am promising program that has the potential to save lives.”
“We just want to find another tool for law enforcement to help make better decisions and more accurate decisions…and to remove hazards off the road,” said Mike Schwendau, assistant director of Highway Safety Programs.
The pushback against such a program is clear to anyone who has ever utilized alcohol safely at home, and then went to work the next morning sober. In other words, sober drivers who happened to use marijuana or other drugs safely at home the night before can still come up positive on a roadside drug test, even though they are not putting anyone at risk. It’s true, the home use of recreational drugs may itself be illegal. But is it really the job of traffic cops to arrest sober people on the side of the road? These type of arrests could lead to driving license suspensions, DUI records, etc., for people who may have never sat behind the wheel while under the influence.
Furthermore, prescription drugs can and will cause positive results on roadside instant drug tests, even if they are being consumed consistent with the prescribed dosage and under the direction of a physician! Without a roadside MRO (medical review officer) on hand to review the results of these drug tests, cops may be violating the privacy and rights of civilians who are legally consuming medication. A better path to safer roads might be to get the pharmaceutical manufacturers to identify exactly which prescription drugs cannot be taken before driving. Education of patients in this regard is virtually non-existent.
Since this is still a trial, any test results garnered during the program’s trial run aren’t admissible should those tested face charges in court. Instead, all results are used to provide additional data to determine if the program is worth the time and effort needed to make it successful. Kentucky lawmakers hold all the cards as law enforcement agencies await their decision about the program’s fate, either approving or denying it for use throughout the state.
In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact one of Health Street’s Drug and DNA Testing locations in Kentucky if you know someone who may be under the influence of drugs, especially if they get behind the wheel while using.