Pennsylvania Bolsters Drug Enforcement Presence on Its Roads

Pennsylvania's latest effort to strengthen highway safety is the addition of 20 officers -- 13 state troopers and seven municipal police officers – who recently were trained as drug recognition experts, State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan announced May 7.

Twenty officers who completed their training as drug recognition experts in March are now at work to make Pennsylvania's roads safer. These officers (known as DREs) are trained to recognize signs of impairment in drivers who are under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol. They’re also trained to identify the category of drugs causing the impairment. Their addition means the state has 80 troopers and 29 municipal officers certified as DREs.

"The addition of more specially trained drug recognition experts will enhance efforts to reduce all types of impaired driving on our roadways," State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said. "These troopers and officers are assets to their communities and improve traffic safety through their knowledge of the signs, symptoms, and effects of controlled substance use."

He said the program also trains officers to recognize whether an individual is suffering from a medical condition rather than drug impairment. DREs are trained to determine whether a driver is under the influence of illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or any other substance that impairs his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.

"Motorists should know that they may be incapable of driving safely and can be charged with driving under the influence after ingesting any intoxicating substance, whether the substance is legal or illegal, prescribed by a physician or purchased over the counter," Noonan said. "Individuals need to be aware of how taking a particular drug will affect their body."

The Pennsylvania DRE training program is coordinated by Cpl. David Andrascik of the state police Bureau of Patrol's Driving Under the Influence/Field Operations Section. The program was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is approved by the International Association of Chiefs of Police; it includes classroom study and hands-on exercises for participating officers. Since 2004, Pennsylvania DREs have conducted nearly 6,000 evaluations of people believed to be impaired by substances other than alcohol, and arrests for DUI involving drugs have more than doubled statewide during that period.

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