Drivers beware. The Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety reported that 'drugged' driving is on the rise.
According to data released by AZGOHS , there was a rise in DUI drug arrests every year in the past decade, except for 2007.
While total DUI arrests have gone down this year, DUI drug arrests went up. In 2011, there were a total of 32,441 DUI arrests. In 2012, that number dropped to 29, 371. DUI drug arrests were at 3,576 in 2011 but jumped to 4,005 in 2012.
DUI Drug Arrests (2003-2012)
Total DUI Arrests (2003-2012)
Lt. Thomas Intrieri with Mesa PD's traffic division and part of a DUI task force, said prescription drugs are becoming a big problem. "Prescription drugs have had a significant increase in impaired driving in our society. CDC did a report in 2009 that showed over the last ten years, the number of deaths resulting from prescription drug overdoses rose over 370%. That certainly has a significant impact," Lt. Intrieri said. The law enforcement agencies are seeing a corresponding involvement between drugs and driving.
Intrieri says all Mesa traffic officers have gone through special training to detect 'drugged' driving. (A large number of traffic officers in our state are not trained and it can be a challenge, he said.) "Whenever you have somebody impaired by drugs, you don't have the usual physical signs, such as the odor of alcohol. Some of the other symptoms are very similar: Bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech," Intrieri said. Attention to driver behavior is very important to detect the warning signs.
Intrieri warns: Many drivers who may get behind the wheel may be
unknowingly impaired by drugs other than alcohol. The indications can be
far more subtle; the penalties however are the same. The fines and jails
are the same. Prescription-drugged driving IS impaired driving.
Also, per Lt. Intrieri, "there isn't a difference between prescription drugs versus illicit drugs. The statute is the same. The driver has the obligation, if they are given medication and they are affected by them, not to be driving." The police are becoming better trained, and they are looking out for these drivers as well. The lesson: You need to know the effects of these drugs on you, and need to know your limitations.
The "I didn't know" excuse is no excuse. Prescription drugs which, leads to impaired driving = jail time. Be careful. Car Accidents in Arizona are already an epidemic. Adding "drugged" driving to the mix can only lead to even more dangerous roads. Lets put a stop to this.