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Senators Request Federal Funds for Drugged Driving Detection

Two U.S. senators have asked the federal government to earmark funds to help identify drug-impaired drivers. DWI crimes are commonly associated with drunk driving, but rapidly growing numbers of drugged drivers have led to more awareness of the problem and calls for better enforcement techniques.

Senators Chuck Schumer and Mark Pryor said federal funding for police training and technology should be set aside in a pending transportation bill. Their call follows a series of fatal accidents in New York that involve allegations of prescription drug abuse by drivers.

Drugged driving arrests in New York rose 35 percent over ten years, and a 2009 federal report shows that 10.5 million Americans admit to driving under the influence of drugs in a. The National Highway Traffic Administration further noted, a third of drug tests for drivers who died in traffic accidents came back positive in 2009. In 2011, police made over 2,000 arrested for drugged driving in New York.

Drugged driving is more difficult to detect than drunk driving, and police currently have little training and no approved equipment specifically targeting the practice. Drugged drivers show fewer telltale signs, and no breathalyzer-like technology is widely available for police use in traffic stops.

The senators requested federal grants for states to create police training programs providing up to 200 hours of instruction in detection methods. Police officer training through the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driver Education (ARIDE) and Drug Recognition Expert (DREs) programs would enable officers to examine DWI suspects for drugged driving.

Additional funding would allow the Department of Transportation to research detection technologies and training programs. If the bill passes, technology such as saliva tests currently being researched could become a standard police tool in DWI stops.