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Sacramento lawmakers propose bill to crack down on drugged drivers

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Sacramento lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow officials to use an oral swab test on people they think are driving under the influence of a prescription drug or an illicit substance. (KGO-TV)

In Sacramento, lawmakers are considering legislation designed to crack down on the growing problem of drugged drivers on California's roads.

Lawmakers said more people are driving under the influence of drugs than ever before, and that local law enforcement must be given the tools to get them off the road.

A handful of state lawmakers are pushing a bill that would give law enforcement permission to use an oral swab test on people they think are driving under the influence of a prescription drug or an illicit substance. "We have to have a way for law enforcement to quickly determine who's posing a danger to other motors," Sen. Bob Huff said.

Huff is sponsoring the bill and said the numbers are alarming.

Between 2009 and 2013, the number of drivers killed in crashes who tested positive for drugs went up by more than 40-percent, according to federal experts. "This is a quick way to test and see if they are under the influence of something, and then if they fail this particular swab test, they can hail him down to the station for further testing," Huff said.

Under Senate Bill 1462, the test would only be used when there is probable cause that a driver is impaired, and if the driver has failed a sobriety field test, but some are skeptical. "I think it's a little bit early to get this going until we better understand the science," Buddy's Cannabis Club owner Matt Lucero said.

Lucero said he's all for making our roads safer, but wonders if the technology will be accurate. "Cannabis can stay in a person's body for up to 30 days. If you were to test me today after I had smoked no sooner than two weeks ago, you can't say there's a correlation between that consumption and my driving ability today," he said.

The California Highway patrol said they'll be monitoring the bill closely. "Even if you have a prescription for this medication, or something that a doctor gave you, you can still be arrested if you use it improperly," California Highway Patrol Ofc. Ross Lee said.

The bill will be reviewed by a committee later this Spring.
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