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Michigan State Police to expand roadside drug testing pilot

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Last November the Michigan State Police wrapped up a year long pilot program in five Michigan counties to test the accuracy of a roadside drug test.

In December lawmakers agreed to fund an expansion of the program based on its success.

A fatal crash in the Upper Peninsula city of Gladstone in 2013 was the catalyst behind the drug testing pilot. A semi-truck driver was convicted on six-felony charges in connection with the crash, including two counts of operating a motor vehicle with the presence of a controlled substance causing death.

According to MSP the number of drug-impaired fatal crashes has increased over the ten year period between 2007 and 2017 by 151%, up from 98 to 246.

When his parents were killed in 2016, the couple’s son contacted his legislator who got the ball rolling on legislation to curb drugged driving.

Senator Thomas Casperson introduced a pair of bills to combat the problem and come up with a solution to roadside testing. Public Act 242 and 243 of 2016 became known as the Barbara J. and Thomas J. Swift Law, and police started looking at test instruments.

Members of MSP, prosecuting attorneys, toxicologists and forensic experts got together, forming the Oral Fluid Roadside Analysis Pilot Program Committee.

Their report was recently released along with the recommendation to expand the pilot state-wide for at least a year.

The oral fluid roadside test is the Alere DDS2, which detects six different drugs, including a component of cannabis known as Delta 9 THC. It also tests for the presence of amphetamine, cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates and benzodiazepines.

Program director, F/Lt. Jim Flegel said an independent laboratory as well as the MSP Forensic Lab tested the results, and across the board they proved accurate.

In all 92 people were tested and 89 were arrested. According to the report 83 people tested positive for substances; and over 80% of those who tested positive for cannabis.

As a result of the five-county pilot, MSP plans to continue working on the accuracy of the equipment, which it hopes will support permanent changes to the Motor Vehicle Code.

MSP is also training more officers across the state as Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) who can spot impaired drivers and test them at the roadside.

A date to start the yearlong pilot program has not been set, but is expected to be sometime within 2019.

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