Ohio Officials Confront Drugged Driving ‘Crisis’

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The answer to how often an Ohio driver’s blood or urine sample tested positive for fentanyl used to be “never,” State Highway Patrol toxicology chief Joseph Jones tells the Columbus Dispatch. Over the past three months, the powerful synthetic opioid — 50 times stronger than morphine and often mixed with heroin — has been detected in about 1 in 20 patrol tests. “Ten years ago, people would take this stuff and die,” said Jones, who saw his first rash of fentanyl overdose deaths a decade ago in Philadelphia. “And now they’re out there on Ohio roads.”

Including opioids of any kind, including prescription painkillers and tough-to-identify new analogs, 40 percent of the blood and urine analyzed at the patrol lab comes back positive for some level of exposure, said Jones, who spoke yesterday at the Ohio Drugged Driving Summit. “My career will be defined by these drugs,” he said. “It’s just not going away.” The summit, hosted by AAA and the Ohio Department of Public Safety, brought together impaired-driving experts, law enforcement officers, educators and other safety professionals to highlight what many deem a “crisis” of drugged driving. The Ohio Department of Transportation says there were at least 4,615 drug-related crashes on Ohio roads last year, an increase of more than 21 percent since 2013.

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