An update to the National Safety Council’s Alcohol, Drugs and Impairment Division’s (NSC-ADID) recommendations for toxicology testing in impaired driving and motor vehicle fatalities has just been released. Since 2007, the NSC-ADID has published recommendations on the scope of testing, analytical cutoffs, and best practices for investigating impaired driving and motor vehicle fatalities in an effort to promote standardization in toxicology testing and improve the quality of data collected in the United States and Canada. The recommendations divide drugs into two tiers: Tier I and Tier II.

Tier I compounds are drugs seen with high frequency in impaired driving arrests and considered essential for inclusion in testing. Tier II compounds have more limited or regional prevalence and may require additional analytical capabilities. This is the fourth iteration of these guidelines updated to account for today’s drug landscape.

The updates to the guidelines were based on survey information of drug testing practices provided by laboratories performing casework in the United States and Canada collected by The Center for Forensic Science Research & Education (CFSRE). Full survey results can be found on the CFSRE’s website: 2020 Toxicology Laboratory Survey. Since the last set of guidelines were published in 2017, there has been an increase in compliance, with 12% of laboratories nationally meeting or exceeding all recommendations and 40% at partial compliance and working on meeting the remaining recommendations.

Barry Logan, PhD, F-ABFT, executive director at the CFSRE, who has spearheaded the efforts to develop recommendations since 2007, says, “It’s really encouraging to see more laboratories complying with the recommendations. It improves the likelihood of detecting drugs in impaired drivers and fatal motor vehicle crashes and ensuring fair and equal justice. The recommendations are being integrated into national standards for forensic toxicology laboratories, which will really help to improve the quality of the data related to drug impaired driving and help us change drivers’ behavior.”

Based in Willow Grove, Pa., the CFSRE is a non-profit organization that operates a state-of-the-art laboratory with a mission to advance forensic science testing and knowledge. Drug impaired driving has become an important area of focus from a public safety perspective. Drug use in motor vehicle fatalities continues to increase year over year, but the government lacks reliable data to help combat this traffic safety threat. Beginning in 2013, the CFSRE with the support of the National Safety Council and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began an ongoing effort to review and update the guidelines every three years to create a living document that provides laboratories with resources and information on what they should be testing for and at what thresholds.

Currently, there is no mandated approach for the analysis of cases from driving under the influence of drugs investigations, despite calls for standardization and improved practices. In collaboration with law enforcement and forensic laboratories, the CFSRE monitors epidemiological aspects of drugs in DUID cases which can lead to the development of evidence-based public policy.