Wisconsin DOT awarded grant to combat drugged drivers

Number of drugged drivers is on the rise
Posted at 4:58 PM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 17:58:47-04

Concern over drugged drivers is on the rise as the alarming number of arrests and accidents grows. In 2015, more than 40 percent of drivers killed in crashes had some form of illegal substance in their system.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Safety has been awarded a $20,000 Governor's Highway Safety Association and Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility grant to help combat this issue.

It's because of a drugged driver that 13-year-old Sara Dresen was killed walking down the side of the road in Racine County.

State Patrol of Southeast Region Waukesha Post Lieutenant Nathan Clarke says drivers under the influence of prescription drugs or narcotics are sometimes hard for officers to spot without advanced training. But with this grant, 384 state and local law enforcement officers will be trained.

"It's going to enable us to put additional training hours not only for our personnel, but for other local law enforcement agencies out there. So that they have a better opportunity to detect those impaired drivers on the highway." Clarke said.

From 2011-15, nearly 25 percent of traffic deaths in this state involved a drugged motorist. It was during that time, Oct. 2013, that State Trooper Anthony Martin participated in the specialized training, Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE), to spot those impaired drivers.

Martin says he's used it quite a bit since then.

"There's a lot of drivers out here that are impaired, especially around the holiday season. We tend to step up our patrols somewhat and kind of really look out for those type of behaviors," Martin said.

"Some of those behaviors are slower driving vehicles, unsafe lane changes, swerving in or between lanes, and erratic driving."

Lt. Clarke says the more officers that are trained in ARIDE, hopefully the faster officers can help bring down the number of drugged drivers and make this issues a thing of the past.

Currently Wisconsin has more than 12,000 state and law enforcement officers - of those, close to 2,600 are ARIDE-trained. Thanks to that national grant, there'll be over 3,000 officers able to catch drugged drivers.