Road accidents account for approx 40,000 deaths and 1,700,000 injured in the European Union (EU) per year (1). The costs resulting from road traffic accidents amount to approx €160 billion annually, or 2% of gross national product. Whereas the number of accidents in which alcohol is involved seems to be diminishing, increasing drug abuse and driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) are reasons for concern. Between 1999 and 2003, five European countries adopted per se laws for DUID: Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, and France. Several other countries have adopted laws that allow taking samples of body fluids when DUID is suspected. The increased attention to DUID is illustrated by the adoption of a resolution by the European Council in November 2003 on combating the impact of psychoactive substance use on road accidents. This resolution invites the European Commission to follow up with timely and effective measures in accordance with the European Action Programme on Road Safety (2), and in particular:
• To carry out a study on the effectiveness of neuro-behavioral and toxicological tests assessing the intake and influence of psychoactive substances on driving ability and, based on the outcome of such a study, to propose procedures or guidelines for conducting the above tests at the European level in order to ensure that the results are reliable and comparable.
• To propose guidelines, based on the best practices identified in the EU, for the management of psychoactive substances-related driving cases.
• To recommend guidelines, at the European level, for training of police officers and health professionals in cases of DUID.
• To consider introduction of appropriate harmonised pictograms on medical packaging.
• To consider proposals for appropriate levels of control on professional drivers.
• To establish a European Road Safety Observatory within the European Commission.
Reliable roadside screening tests are urgently needed to aid police in determining which drivers must provide a blood sample or in taking immediate administrative measures such as confiscating the driver's license or impounding the vehicle. However, because illegal drugs are not released in measurable amounts in the breath, roadside drug testing must be based on other specimens that are relatively easy to obtain, such as urine, oral fluid, and sweat. Roadside drug-test results are regarded only as preliminary and must be confirmed before they are admissible in court.
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