A growing opioid crisis and marijuana decriminalization has led to a surge in drivers impaired by drugs in North Carolina and around the country, and the National Transportation Safety Board says that regulators should respond to the problem by providing more assistance to states and drafting standards for roadside drug testing devices. The NTSB asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take these steps in an Oct. 16 statement that was prompted by the investigation into an accident in Texas involving a drug-impaired driver that claimed 13 lives in 2017.

According to NTSB data, the number of drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents who subsequently tested positive for drugs rose from 30 percent in 2006 to 46 percent in 2015. NHTSA figures reveal that random roadside testing reveals evidence of drug use about 22 percent of the time. However, there is currently no standardized test that police officers can use to determine drug impairment.

The NTSB says that law enforcement is in dire need of such a test and has also called for comprehensive training to help police identify the signs of impairment caused by both prescription and illegal drugs. NHTSA says that they are working on the problem and have held public meetings to discuss the issue in Washington, Maryland and Tennessee. The agency has also added information about drug use to its campaigns warning about the dangers of intoxicated driving.

The penalties for driving under the influence can be severe in North Carolina, but proving intoxication by drugs beyond reasonable doubt is sometimes difficult. The research dealing with marijuana impairment is far from complete, and scientists are not yet able to conclusively link THC levels in the blood with degrees of intoxication. When toxicology evidence is unconvincing, experienced criminal defense attorneys may seek to have DUI or DWI charges reduced or dismissed.