Push for Police Training in Recognizing Drugged Driving

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

New York has recently seen a surge in arrests of individuals driving under the influence of drugs. Unfortunately, most New York officers are not trained to spot these types of offenders. Studies show an increase in drugged driving arrests of 35 percent since 2001.

The rate for alcohol related DWI arrests remains much higher despite the increase in drugged related driving offenses over the past decade. Drugged driving includes individuals driving under the influence of prescription or illegal drugs.

Even though the number of drugged arrests are not nearly as high as the number of drinking arrests, police are focusing on increasing training to help spot drugged drivers as well. They believe drugged driving poses the same risks as drunk driving. Every police officer is trained in alcohol related DWIs, but drug related offenses required specialized training. The charge for driving under the influence of drugs carries the same penalty as driving under the influence of alcohol.

A recent study found that 10.5 million Americans drove while on drugs in 2009. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that about one third of the drivers believed to be under the influence who died in car crashes had used drugs.

Identifying an individual as under the influence of drugs is not as easy as identifying an individual is under the influence of alcohol. Drunk drivers can be identified from bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and alcohol on the breath of the driver. Police can also use breathalyzers to analyze those suspected of drinking and driving; there is no equivalent portable device to detect drug use.

Members of the New York legislature are pushing for legislation to fund training for officers in drug recognition. An officer trained as a drug recognition expert may be more prepared to identify symptoms of drug use and pinpoint the type of drug used. To become an expert, officers are required to complete up to 200 hours of training.

Currently, there are only about 250 drug recognition experts in the state of New York but the number is increasing each year. There is also a course officers can take that provides basic drug recognition training, which is a 16-hour course.