The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Helping officers recognize the signs of a drugged driver


By Donna Rovins, News Editordrovins@berksmontnews.com

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Thirty-five police officers from across the region had the opportunity last week to participate in a training designed to enhance their ability to recognize drivers who may be drug impaired.
The two-day Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) training was offered at the Berks County Fire Training Center. It was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with input from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Technical Advisory Panel and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police.
ARIDE was created to address the gap in training between the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) and the Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) programs. The SFST is used by officers at the scene of a motor vehicle stop to assess drivers they suspect of being under the influence of alcohol. The DEC programs use officers trained as drug recognition experts to conduct drug evaluations in a more controlled environment, like a detention facility.
ARIDE is intended to bridge the gap between the two programs by giving officers general knowledge about drugged driver impairments, so they can recognize on the spot, the signs that someone may be driving under the influence of narcotics. The program also promotes the use of drug recognition experts in states that have the DEC program.
“In the past, we really didn’t realize why people were failing field tests, we just thought they were ‘like that all the time,’ and we wouldn’t let them drive home,” said Exeter Police officer David Bentz, who took the course in June. “The training opens your eyes to the problem of people abusing particularly prescription drugs. While taking the training you really think back on people you let go in the past and realize they should have been arrested because they are abusing drugs.”
The next level of training for these officers would be to become a Drug Recognition Expert. The DRE uses additional training to determine what types of drugs are being abused so that the appropriate blood test can be taken to ensure a successful prosecution.
“It makes arresting drug abusers much easier because the training gives you the confidence to make the arrest because you realize the signs of abuse,” Bentz added.
As an example, he referenced a situation that occurred the day after the training wrapped up. Bentz explained that one of Exeter’s officers who had been in the training had a driver in custody at 8 a.m. for DUI.
“The driver had used a combination of prescription pills that made him unsafe to drive. The driver admits to not following his doctor’s dosage,” Bentz said. He added that prior to taking the class, the officer would have just gotten the driver a ride home.
The North Central Regional DUI Enforcement program equips funds and coordinates the municipal police DUI enforcement in the following counties: Berks, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Snyder, Union, Columbia, Montour, Monroe and Pike.