Two New York City area collisions last month resulted in the tragic deaths of two young boys, ages four and five. Prescription drug abuse is currently being investigated in connection with both crashes. According to New York Sen. Charles Schumer, theseNew York car accidents sparked in part his proposal to use federal funds, within a pending transportation bill, for research and police training related to drugged drivers.
The proposal was also brought forward by Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor. Senators Schumer and Pryor claim police have little training and no equipment to identify drugged drivers, who often don’t exhibit the same outward indicators of intoxication as drunk drivers.
In New York, drugged driving arrests have increased 35 percent since 2001. Sen. Schumer claims, however, that those caught only represent a fraction of the offenders.
Over 15 percent of weekend and evening drivers had positive tests for illegal prescription or over-the-counter drugs, according to a 2007 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The same survey showed 11 percent of drivers had used illegal drugs. Additionally, the NHTSA found a third of the over 12,000 drivers tested who were killed in 2009 auto accidents had taken drugs.
“With the explosive growth of prescription drug abuse it’s vital that local law enforcement have the tools and training they need to identify those driving under the influence of narcotics to get them off the road,” explained Sen. Schumer.
The proposal includes the creation of federal grants to enable police to receive instruction in the detection of drugged driving.
Source: USA Today,Police seek help identifying drugged drivers, AP, 29 January 2012.