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Identifying drugged drivers in California remains difficult

Driving while impaired is illegal in California, just as it is in every other state in the nation. There are many ways to identify a drunk driver. For example, an officer could administer a field sobriety test to determine if a person is impaired, and a breath or blood test can measure the driver's blood-alcohol concentration to determine if it is above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. However, what about drivers who have used drugs such as marijuana, and then driven and caused an accident?

Currently, there is no breath test to identify whether a driver has smoked marijuana. Police may notice other clues that the driver is impaired, but a roadside test of how prevalent the drug is in the driver's system is not yet available. Also, while a blood test can detect marijuana in a person's system, the drug may not yet have affected the user's brain. Moreover, those who frequently smoke marijuana will have it in their blood system for weeks, even if they haven't smoked recently.

Some states have implemented roadside saliva tests to determine if a driver is operating a vehicle while high on marijuana. However, the level of marijuana detected in a user's saliva can be much higher than that which is found in the user's blood, leading to inconsistent results.

Marijuana use can affect the user's memory and coordination, which could lead to an accident. That is why the State of California has given $1.8 million to the University of California's Center for Medical Cannabis Research to develop a system for identifying when a driver is impaired by drugs, including developing a roadside test that can identify drugged drivers, similar to alcohol breath tests.

Unfortunately, whether it is easy to detect or not, driving while impaired includes drug use. Marijuana can affect a person's senses, memory and ability to concentrate on the task of driving. When a drugged driver causes an accident that injures or kills another individual, it is important to hold the drugged driver accountable. In some cases, this involves filing a civil suit in which the victim can seek compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other damages he or she suffered due to the accident.

Source: Forbes, "More Americans Are Smoking Marijuana And Driving, But Identifying Them Is Tricky," Rita Rubin, Nov. 30, 2016

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