A major goal of the President’s National Drug Control Strategy is to reduce drugged driving by 10 percent by 2015. Two initiatives to help reach this mark are (1) the continued support for training officers to identify drugged-impaired drivers; and (2) the collection of more comprehensive data to support effective policy making.
The training component of the Administration’s goal has already been addressed and successfully active since the late 1980s, when the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program (DECP) was established to train and certify drug recognition experts (DREs) to detect drivers impaired by drugs in addition to alcohol. The program is coordinated by the IACP with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Today, all 50 states participate in this program. Approximately 21,000 DREs have been certified since 1990, and presently more than 7,000 active DREs perform drug evaluations to enforce our nation’s drugged-driving laws. (See more at http://www.decp.org)
NHTSA collaborated with the IACP in 2004 to develop the National Drug Recognition Expert Data Collection System at http://www.sobrietytesting.org to store drug impairment evaluations conducted by DREs. These evaluations assist in providing valuable information on drug use, drug trends, crash involvement, demographics of users, and other significant data that greatly assist in developing strategies and countermeasures to assist in addressing the drugged driving problem.
Data collection is important to the DECP.
The success and continuance of the DECP relies largely on data obtained by the DREs, who enter the results of their drug evaluations and toxicology testing confirmations. Indeed, collecting data will play a major role in future drug driving initiatives.
But perhaps one of the most important aspects of DRE evaluation data is the evidence it provides to justify the cost and time of training police officers to become DREs and remove drug-impaired drivers from our roadways.
We need evaluations entered into the system.
Unfortunately some DREs do not use the National DRE Tracking System for a variety of reasons; for example, some states do not actively promote the use of the system and some states have their own data collection systems.
Although the number of DREs continues to increase, approximately only 65 percent of all DREs currently use the National DRE Tracking System. This means that a significant number of evaluations are not being entered into the national tracking system.
It is imperative that states and agencies encourage their DREs to enter data into the National DRE Tracking system. Data collection is a fundamental piece to achieving the goal of reducing drugged driving by 10 percent by 2015. Without the comprehensive collection of data, we cannot get an accurate and honest picture of the drugged driving problem.
With the growing number of states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana, drugged driving will continue to increase nationally. Moreover, the nonmedical use of readily available prescription drugs is already now the second largest form of illicit drug abuse in the United States.
When the DREs under your command are entering their evaluations, your agency gets its much-deserved credit for the work that the DREs are doing. The data tracking system enables you to access accurate and up-to-date statistics, but only if your DREs are entering their data in a timely fashion. In order to assist the states in using this vital resource, NHTSA offers training on using the system.
Your effort to ensure your DREs are using this critical tool is needed now more than ever if the IACP and NHTSA are to present a compelling case for the value of DRE training.
For more information, contact Carolyn Cockroft at firstname.lastname@example.org