Ten-Fold Spike In Drivers Drug Tested After Passage Of Zero Tolerance DUID Law, Study Says

Linkoping, Sweden: Passage of a Swedish law prohibiting motorists from operating a vehicle with any detectable level of a controlled substance present in their blood has led to a 10-fold increase in the number of cases submitted by police for toxicological analysis, according to data published in the December issue of the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.

Among Swedish drivers administered blood tests, nearly 60 percent were positive for the presence of amphetamines. Cannabis was detected in combination with the presence of other illicit and/or prescription drugs in 20 percent of the drivers tested. Only four percent of drivers tested under the law were positive for the presence of THC alone.

Fifteen percent of suspected drugged drivers tested negative for all controlled substances.

Despite the ten-fold increase in drivers drug tested under the law, investigators previously reported that the increased enforcement has not reduced incidences of drugged driving. According to a 2005 study that appeared in the same journal, “Sweden’s zero-concentration limit has done nothing to reduce DUID [driving under the influence of drugs] or deter the typical offender because recidivism is high in this population of individuals.”

In recent years, several US states have enacted similar zero tolerance laws. Critics of these laws argue that the statutes inappropriately classify sober drivers as “impaired” and may criminally punish non-impaired drivers for their previous, non-driving-related activities.

“While we all support the goal of keeping impaired motorists off the road – regardless of whether they are impaired from alcohol, prescription drugs, or illicit substances – the enactment of so-called zero tolerance per se legislation is inappropriate, illogical, and does nothing to deter individuals from driving under the influence of illicit substances,” NORML Senior Policy Analyst Paul Armentano said. “At best, these laws are an inflexible response to a complex social problem. At worst, they are a cynical attempt to misuse the traffic safety laws to prosecute illicit drug consumers per se.”

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Senior Policy Analyst, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Predominance of illicit drugs and poly-drug use among drug-impaired drivers in Sweden,” appears in Traffic Injury Prevention.