HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania law enforcement officials are training more officers to recognize impaired drivers as drugged driving incidents rise.
According to AAA, of the 53,000 DUI arrests in Pennsylvania last year, half of them involved either drugs alone, or drugs and alcohol.
Many of the drugged driving cases being seen in the state involve legal prescription drugs.
“It’s not just your illicit drugs that we’re seeing. The majority of them are the prescription drugs,” said Cpl. Scott Davis, the Drug Recognition Expert Coordinator for Pennsylvania State Police. “We’re putting a lot of training in for our officers. Teaching them how to look for signs of impairment. We all know what alcohol impairment looks like. But, if we can get our officers trained, they’re going to be picking up these people driving.”
Cpl. Davis believes the drugged driving problem may only get worse, though, as marijuana legalization becomes more common across the country. It’s an issue that worries officials with the Pennsylvania DUI Association as well.
“Those are all concerns for highway safety, and we actually believe it’s just not good public health policy,” said Stephen Erni, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania DUI Association. “Our work is cut out for us. But, I do believe that Pennsylvania law enforcement, and of course the Department of Transportation, is very much aware of this and is taking a leading role in making sure our officers are well trained.”
There are currently 172 Drug Recognition Experts in Pennsylvania. They are called in if a driver is suspected to be impaired but is not under the influence of alcohol.