With 11 million people sometimes driving under the influence of illegal drugs, some members of Congress want action, reports the Associated Press. States are wary. Eight states have laws on “drugged driving,” but their statutes are vague. None specifies an equivalent level to the 0.08 percent blood content that Congress established as the level for alcohol impairment.
That’s partly because there’s no “breathalyzer” as there is for alcohol. Even if blood or urine samples taken at a hospital test positive for drugs, there’s no standard for how high is too high to drive. “Zero tolerance” is the level some lawmakers want to establish. A motorist found to have any controlled substance in his or her system would be considered unlawfully impaired.
Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has introduced a bill that would create a model drug-impaired driving law for states to address what proponents say is a major problem that has gone largely ignored. The eight states with drug-impairment laws, says the American Prosecutors Research Institute. They are Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Utah. “In every state of the country, it’s illegal for someone to drive under the influence of any drug or substance that may cause them to be impaired,” said John Bobo of APRI’s National Traffic Law Center. But in these eight states, it is “per-se illegal” to have any detectable amount of a controlled substance in your system. Under Portman’s proposal, states that enact similar laws would get aid for training police and prosecutors and for driver counseling as well as grants to research field tests to measure motorists’ drug levels.
Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) would make states that don’t enact drug-impaired driving laws forfeit 1 percent of their annual federal highway funds. The amount forfeited would double each year up to 50 percent.