Europe: French Police Start Saliva-Testing Drivers for Drugs

French Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie went to the French Riviera town of Antibes on Monday to give a public kick-off to a new French campaign to crack down on drugged drivers. In the new campaign, some 50,000 drug screening kits will be handed out across France.
With the saliva tests, drivers are asked to spit on a stick, which is then dipped in a chemical substance to test for the presence of marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, or amphetamines. If no drugs are present, a red line appears on the stick after a few moments. If drugs are detected, the stick stays white.

Any positive result must be followed up with a blood test to ensure that other medications are not creating a false positive. The consequences for a drugged driving conviction are steep: a maximum fine of about $6,700 and up to two years in jail.

The tests are not supposed to detect cannabis use for more than a few hours after smoking, but three of the first 10 tests tried at Antibes came back positive for marijuana. At least one of the drivers protested in vain that the last time he had smoked was three days earlier.

The saliva tests, similar to those used in South Australia, should save hundreds of lives a year, French officials said. A 2005 French study suggested that smoking marijuana doubled the risk of a fatal accident. When smoking was mixed with drinking, the risk increased 15-fold. The study claimed marijuana caused 230 highway deaths a year in France.

Not everyone agrees with the French position on marijuana and driving, including some of the leading experts in the field. Last October, 11 of them urged polities to reject zero tolerance impaired driving laws with respect to marijuana. Such laws are not evidence-based and could snare marijuana users who are not impaired, they said. Of course, if all else fails, police could just test for actual impairment, whatever the cause.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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marijuana imparied driving??!!

uh...there is some evidence that marijuana actually IMPROVES driving ability...including a segment on the UK's Top Gear a few years ago...

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Oops! Sorry. I Spit on a Flic

None of the five drugs being tested for by the French drug sticks (marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, heroin, or amphetamines) have all that much to do with being a dysfunctional driver in traffic.  Downers such as alcohol and hypnotics, or drug combinations, are more likely to be culprits.

And just because a drug is in someone’s system when an accident occurs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the drug caused the accident.  Yet the sticky assumption is that with this new totalitarian intrusion into the driving habits of French citizens, several hundred lives will be saved on France’s roads each year.

I seriously doubt traffic fatalities in France will be reduced by any significant number of victims because of a test kit, but a year from now isn’t that long.  By then data should be available to confirm or deny the French experiment.

The question then becomes: if the test kits prove ineffective, will the French government stop using them?  I’m guessing a big ‘NO’ on that one.  Totalitarian political movements never give up abusive power without a fight.  Some excuse will materialize from the netherworld of the drug warrior psyche to justify keeping the test.  French drivers will be spitting on sticks until people start calling the French ‘stick spitters’, or until the French learn to shove the sticks up the French government’s ass.

BTW, ‘flic’ from the title above is the French slang term for a French cop.  A flic with a stick is a schtook indeed.


can't spit

dude, i have the worst cotton mouth, we'll have to do this later...

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