CAROL STREAM, Ill. -- Police in Carol Stream will be the first in Illinois to start testing to detect whether a driver is high on drugs.
The tests are like breath tests for alcohol, but they use mouth swabs to screen for at least a half dozen other drugs. In under 10 minutes an officer can determine if a driver has have pot, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamines or opiates such as heroin in their system.
The impaired driver has to volunteer to take the test that, at this point, will not be used criminally.
Traffic officers said they increasingly see people on the road who appear to be on something — in many cases prescription drugs, which are also illegal if they impair driving.
Police in California, Colorado, Kansas and Michigan, as well as Australia and many European countries, are already using or testing the devices. But critics question how well the tests work and whether they’ll be used properly.
The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that the percentage of crashes involving alcohol dropped 30 percent from 2007 through last year. But the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana tripled in that same time, to almost 15 percent.
Carol Stream police arrest about 100 drivers on drugs each year, as opposed to 300 to 500 for driving while drunk.