Class teaches officers symptoms of drugged driving
Pennsylvania is cracking down on drug-impaired drivers who get behind the wheel.
Police officers took part Tuesday in a special training program designed to help keep the roads safe for all.
What has been on the rise recently, law enforcement officials said, are problems caused by drivers impaired by drugs, ranging from illegal narcotics to prescribed medicine.
"A lot of times, when someone gets arrested, they say, 'Well, I'm only taking my prescribed dose.' Well, your prescribed dose can still impair you," said state Trooper Richard Webb, a drug recognition instructor for the Pa. State Police.
Webb taught 37 patrol officers from several counties how to spot the problem on the roads in a class at the Berks County Fire Training Center in Reading. It's part of the state's Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement program.
"If you were on narcotics and were using, your pupils would be very pin-point constricted. If you were on a stimulant, your pupils would be dilated," said Webb.
"There's been an exponential increase in the number of DUI-DUD arrests compared to regular DUI alcohol," said George Geisler Jr., a drug recognition expert and eastern Pa. law enforcement director for the Pennsylvania DUI Assn.
There were more than 11,000 impaired driving-related crashes in Pennsylvania in 2011, Geisler said. Thirty percent of DUI arrests annually, Geisler said, are drug-impaired driver arrests, including drivers impaired by the combination of alcohol and drugs, as well as drugs alone.
"There's so many different kinds of drugs out on the streets today that the drug drivers are much more common today than it was when I started my career 28 years ago," said Geisler.
Drug-related impairment could be just as detrimental as driving behind the wheel intoxicated, officials said.
"The more officers we get to have this training, the more officers we'll have out there to get these impaired drivers off the road before they hurt somebody," said Webb.
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