PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – DUIs are on the rise, but what drivers are under the influence of has changed.
State police say they’ve seen a 600 percent increase in the number of DUI drug arrests.
In 2004, they made just over 1,000 arrests in the state for drivers under the influence of drugs. In 2014, that number grew to 7,367.
KDKA’s Heather Abraham recently went on patrol with Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Terrence Donnelly.
Sgt. Donnelly is specially trained as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). It’s a program devised by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He’s been a DRE since 2007 and has seen an increase in the number of drivers under the influence of drugs.
“The problem is real. It’s out there and it affects everyone that drives on the roads,” said Sgt. Donnelly.
He responds to the city as well surrounding areas when someone is suspected of DUI, but it may be something other than alcohol.
“The whole thing, the whole process, is based on signs and symptoms,” said Sgt. Donnelly. “Different drugs in different drug categories will affect the body in different ways.”
He added that officers are also checking to make sure the driver is not suffering from any medical issues.
Last year alone, Sgt. Donnelly preformed 40 evaluations on people impaired on substances. He is just one of over 150 DREs in the state. Just like state police, local municipalities are also seeing an increase in the number of drugged drivers. According to state police statistics, in 2004 local municipal police arrested 4,498 people for driving under the influence of drugs.
In 2014, over 12,100 arrests were made for the same offense.
Sgt. Donnelly says the number of arrests has increased both because more people are drug driving and because more officers are now trained to identify drivers under the influence of drugs.
“Much the same as when we were teaching people standardized field sobriety tests for alcohol, our alcohol DUIs went up. And it was because officers were better trained and better able to see the signs of impairment.”