Report: Virginia can do more to stop drugged driving

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A new report from the Virginia Crime Commission reviewed state laws regarding drunk driving and found that there are several legal barriers that the General Assembly could address.

The report looked at the last 20 years and found that while DUI arrests are down, deaths on Virginia’s roads are up.

State Sen. Scott Sorvell said he is concerned that drunk driving is a growing problem that is not being fully addressed.

“We’re also concerned that maybe the popularity of marijuana is causing more people to drive under the influence rather than driving drunk,” he said.

Delegate Rob Bell said recreational possession of marijuana has been legalized in small amounts more than a year agothe state still lacks advanced police training and evidence-gathering tools to prosecute offenders who attack the DNS.

“With DUID, it’s not a little bit harder, it’s a lot harder,” Bell said. “And that makes it a lot harder to get a conviction — and get that person off the road — than an alcohol case.”

The report explains that the blood test is the most effective tool in drunk driving, but it takes a long time to perform and imposes a burden on law enforcement and medical personnel. At least 26 states allow roadside drug testing using saliva, but Virginia is not one of them, according to the report.

“There are all kinds of legal issues that I would like to discuss and answer before we allow police officers to start putting objects in people’s mouths just because they’re driving down the highway,” Sorwell said.

Virginia also doesn’t currently have a legal limit for THC concentration like other states — something Bell wants to see change.

“At this point, we don’t all agree that this is the right way to go, but I think … we need to do something,” Bell said.

Lawmakers have said they will discuss all of these reforms ahead of the 2023 session.

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