Report: Virginia could do more to stop drugged driving

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new report from the Virginia State Crime Commission reviewed the state’s laws regarding intoxicated driving and found that there are several enforcement barriers that the general assembly could address.

The report looked at the last 20 years and found that while arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) are down, death’s on Virginia’s roadways are up.

State senator Scott Sorvell said he is concerned that drugged driving is a growing problem that is not being fully detected.

“We also have a concern that perhaps the popularity of marijuana is causing more people to drive while high as opposed to driving while drunk,” he said.

Delegate Rob Bell said that since recreational marijuana possession was legalized in small amounts over a year ago, the state still lacks advanced police training and evidence-gathering tools to hold DUI offenders accountable.

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

The report explains that blood testing is the most effective tool in drug-impaired driving cases, however, it takes a long time to complete and places a labor strain on law enforcement and medical staff to execute. At least 26 states allow for roadside drug screenings using saliva but, according to the report, Virginia isn’t one of them.

“There are all kinds of legal issues surrounding that, which I would want to have a discussion about and have answered before we authorize police officers to start sticking objects in people’s mouths just because they’re driving on the highway,” Sorvell said.

Virginia also does not currently have a legal limit for THC concentration like other states — something Bell wants to see changed.

“At this point, we don’t have everybody agreeing that that is the right way to go but, to me … we need to do something,” Bell said.

Lawmakers said they will be discussing all of these reforms ahead of the 2023 session.