Removing the "High" from the Highways: The Impact of Virginia's Efforts to Combat Drug-related DUI

Report No: 93-R8

Published in 1992

About the report:

Beginning on April 1, 1988, a revision to Virginia law gave police officers the authority to require an individual suspected of drug-related driving under the influence (DUI) to submit a blood sample to be tested for drugs. Concurrent with the implementation of the revised law, Virginia initiated a pilot Drug Recognition Technician (DRT) Program, which concentrates on training police officers to detect the signs of impairment consistent with seven broad categories of drugs. This study evaluated the impact of the revised law and the DRT program on arrests and convictions for drug-related Dill between 1988 and 1990. Additionally, this study investigated whether there was a spillover effect on alcohol-related arrests and convictions and on alcohol-related injury and fatality rates. Drug-related DUI arrests increased in 1988 but declined somewhat in 1989 and 1990; however, the DUI conviction rate for drug-related cases remained relatively stable. Generally, if a drug was detected, there was a 40% to 70% DUI conviction rate depending on the type of drug(s) detected. If no drug was detected, the DUI conviction rate was less than 25%. Although the revised law encouraged officers to make more arrests for drug-related DUI, there is no evidence that it functioned to reduce fatalities and injuries. Further, even though the DRT program helped to increase arrests for drug-related DUI, DRT cases were no more likely than non-DRT cases to result in a conviction. However, there is some evidence that the DRT program had a positive influence on the arrest rate for alcohol-related DUI. Several recommendations are made for revitalizing both the DRT program and the statewide emphasis on drug-related DUI.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

 Jack D. Jernigan

Last updated: December 24, 2023

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