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New tests look for drugged drivers

Now that voters in California have decided that marijuana will be legal for recreational use, some lawmakers are trying to regulate what that means in relation to traffic safety. The Associated Press reports that three large California counties are piloting a testing program that uses a driver's saliva to see if there are any drugs present in their system.

But everyone is not convinced that the test is conclusive. For example, at least one member of the California Highway Patrol believes that neither saliva or breath tests are accurate enough to use. For alcohol, any amount below .08 blood alcohol is legal. However, there is currently not a level deemed acceptable of any drug in a driver's system, which means that the law has not yet determined what level constitutes driving while intoxicated. Despite these concerns, a judge in Kern County accepted the results of a saliva-based drug detection test as evidence in a case last year.

But drivers under the influence of drugs is a growing concern in the United States. In fact, according to The Atlantic, drugged driving has surpassed alcohol as the leading reason drivers die in an accident: 43 percent of fatal crashes had drivers with drugs in their system, compared to 37 percent who had blood alcohol levels above .08 percent. Prescription drug use while driving is also on the rise. A study found that 20 percent of drivers had taken some form of prescription drug in the past 48 hours. Law enforcement officers stress that all prescription drugs are not safe to take before getting behind the wheel: just because a drug comes from the doctor does not mean it can be taken before driving.

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