Drugged driving deaths surpass drunken driving fatalities

Law enforcment increase recognition training

With the rise of an opioid epidemic and the legalization of marijuana in a growing number of states, incidents of drugged driving have been increasing.

The Governors Highway Safety Association says in 2015 drugs were present in the systems of 43 percent of fatally injured drivers. That was significantly higher than the 37 percent of drivers involved in alcohol-related deaths.

The rise in drugged driving fatalities mirrors what law enforcement officers are seeing in traffic stops and during accident investigations.

“When I first started there was a little bit of that, but now it is continuous,” said Glenn Davis, a drug recognition officer with the Madison Police Department.

To deal with the growing problem of drugged driving, the Madison Police Department has been growing the number of drug recognition officers.

“When I started, I believe there were two drug recognition experts for the city of Madison. I think we are now up to six, and even with that number, there are times when I’m at the hospital trying to do an evaluation and I can’t get that evaluation done fast enough before the next person comes in,” Davis said.

As the incidents of drugged driving increase, training law enforcement officers to deal with them has become a priority.

To help with that, the Governors Highway Safety Association is awarding grants totaling $100,000 to five states, including Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s share of the grant totals $20,000.