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Drugged Driving: Wisconsin motorists driving high is on the rise

Posted at 6:38 PM, Aug 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-20 19:38:24-04

Drugged driving is a growing issue in the United States. So, much so, that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is hosting a nationwide campaign with the message "Drive high, get a DUI." 

Last year Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Department of Justice received an award for its TV drug driving PSA campaign. 

West Allis-West   Milwaukee Resource Center Director Joanie Luedke says any and all PSAs are helpful in creating awareness. She says prevention is key. The center is hosting a community event, Sept. 25, to highlight the dangers of drug driving or getting in the car with someone who has taken prescription or street drugs. 

"They don't always take into consideration, you know, the side effects and how it can impair your driving," said Luedke.

Data from the WisDOT over the last 10 years finds a rise in drugged driving related incidents, drug-related crashes and injuries, up 150 percent and 122 percent respectively.

To combat the issue the state has High-Visibility law Enforcement, Impaired driving task forces, Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement training, and Drug Recognition Experts. 

Merrill Officer Tyler Tesch teaches officers who want to become Drug Recognition Experts. It's a five-week course that already has nearly 300 DREs across the state. Wisconsin is among the states with the most DREs in the nation. 

Tesch has been on the force for 13 years and has made over 1,000 DUI arrests. He says a third of those arrests were for drugged driving.

Tesch says continuing to learn and teach one another about drug driving can only help everyone stop this issue from growing. 

"Education important especially in a field like this. Drugs are rapidly changing. New street drugs and new methods of introducing street drugs to a person. That has changed in just my 13 years of law enforcement," said Tesch. 

Wisconsin State Patrol Officer Jacob Edwards is taking the five-week class. He says the rigorous coursework and hands-on experience will all be worth it in the end. 

"In preventing people operating under the influence," said Edwards. "In a way we'll be saving lives of people who don't even know their lives are saved."