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Safety officials urge adoption of drugged driving standards

People in North Carolina may see escalated attempts to arrest and prosecute people for driving under the influence of drugs, especially as an increasing number of people advocate for legalized cannabis. The decriminalization movement that has spread across the country sparked warnings from the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB. There are no clear standards indicating what level of drug exposure could indicate impaired driving. In addition, there are no standardized devices that police can use to detect the level of drug exposure in a person's bloodstream.

The NTSB urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to create national standards for the levels of drug consumption that can lead to unsafe or dangerous driving. The recommendations followed an investigation of a 2017 car crash in Texas. A pickup truck driver hit a church bus, killing 13 people, and testing of the driver later revealed evidence of sedatives and marijuana in his system.

Test results for drugs aren't consistent from state to state, and people can sometimes be accused of driving while under the influence of drugs even if there is no indication that the amount could have influenced their driving. This is even true in the case of cannabis where the evidence on the amount leading to intoxication is highly debated. However, studies have shown that a growing number of drivers killed in car accidents show some level of drug exposure, the percentage increasing from 30 percent in 2006 to 46 percent in 2015.

People who are arrested and charged with drugged driving can face serious consequences in North Carolina. DWI charges carry penalties ranging from heavy fines to jail time as well as a suspended driver's license. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help people avoid a conviction drugged or drunk driving charges by challenging police and prosecution evidence.

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