Drugged driving: Washtenaw County deputies have new roadside drug testing tool

Deputies are targeting drivers high on drugs

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Police in Washtenaw County are trying out a new way to get drugged drivers off the road. 

While on patrol, deputies such as Brian Webb ask the same question every day:

"Have you had anything to drink or on any drugs?"

Now there's something to back up the answer. Deputy Webb is one of seven drug recognition experts at the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office. They carry a new device that can tell immediately if there are drugs in a person's system.

"Like cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy," said Webb. 

All that's needed is a swab inside the person's mouth. Within minutes the device returns a negative or positive reading. 

"Everybody's all concerned, 'Well, say there's marijuana I smoke a couple days ago.' That's not gonna show up. It's got to be by stuff that's got to be recent use," said Webb. 

Washtenaw County is the only county in southeastern Michigan that's running this pilot roadside drug testing program. Statistics show drugged driving is a problem in Washtenaw County, where 250 people were arrested last year for being on drugs while driving. That number is expected to grow in 2017. 

However, Webb wants to make it clear there is a difference between illegal drugs and prescriptions. 

"A certain drug that I'm prescribed by a doctor, am I going to get in trouble? No. You got to be impaired by it," he said. 

Drivers may legally refuse to undergo the drug testing. However, much like refusing to take a breathalyzer test for alcohol you could face a ticket. 

About the Author: