More than 1.5 million people were arrested in the U.S. last year for driving drunk. Police departments and health specialists estimate that at least as many people drive under the influence of drugs each year – and rarely are prosecuted for it, reports USA Today. In an effort similar to the movement that began inspiring anti-drunken-driving laws a quarter-century ago, a growing number of government and law enforcement officials are pressing for laws that target drugged driving.Congress, encouraged by White House anti-drug czar John Walters, is considering proposals that would use the lure of federal transportation money to push states to adopt zero-tolerance laws that would make it a crime for anyone to drive with any amount of illicit drugs in their system.
Eleven states – Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah and Wisconsin – have such laws now. Nevada has a law that sets impairment guidelines for blood and urine testing for certain drugs, including marijuana, marijuana metabolites, heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine. A drugged driving bill in Congress that passed both the House and Senate as part of transportation packages and is being considered in a conference committee, is modeled after the federal anti-drunken-driving laws that are widely credited with making oads safer. The law required states to adopt the 0.08% blood-alcohol standard by 2004 or lose federal transportation money. Last year, 17,013 people died in alcohol-related traffic crashes, a 3 percent drop from 2002. Fighting drugged driving is considerably more complicated than the war on drunken driving. There is no widely available roadside testing device that can quickly detect drugs in a person’s body, as the Breathalyzer does for alcohol.