The Impaired Driving Initiatives at Sam Houston State University is expanding its efforts to get drunk and drugged drivers off the road by developing a new program to assist Texas probation and parole officers to recognize the signs and systems of various kinds of drug impairment among their clients and families.
The program will be added to a growing cadre of agencies and individuals enlisted to reduce the number of traffic crashes and fatalities on Texas roadways. Funded through grants from the Texas Department of Transportation, the Initiatives have ongoing efforts to train law enforcement officers, school personnel, and employers to recognize the signs of drunk and drugged drivers.
“Eight out of ten convicted offenders reside in our communities – living in our neighborhoods, working in our communities and driving to and from their place of work and recreational activities,” said Cecelia Marquart, Director of the Impaired Driving Initiatives.
“The primary goal of this proposal is to educate community supervision and parole officers on traffic safety, specifically the potential for impaired driving among their respective clientele to enhance roadway safety. They can detect not only the impairment of the probationer or parolee, but possibly the individual who brought them to their visit or individuals encountered during home visits. The end result would promote safer Texas highways. ”
In 2010, there were 2,023 crashes involving fatalities in Texas, with 575 involving alcohol and 185 involving drugs. Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest growing problem, and it ranks second behind marijuana in illegal drug use. About half of Americans routinely use at least one prescription drug for medical reasons, and about 20 percent of citizens have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons over their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Health.
The new program will target offenders in the community, many of them out on drug offenses. In 2011, there were about 141,000 offenders in Texas prisons, 107,000 offenders on parole, and 413,000 offenders on some sort of community supervision. Thirty percent of parolees and 16 percent of the probationers were convicted on drug-related offenses.
The Impaired Driving Initiatives grant will work with the Correctional Management Institute of Texas, the Community Justice Assistance Division, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, The Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Parole Division, community supervision administers and law enforcement (Drug Recognition Expert Instructors) to develop the curriculum for the course. The six to eight hour course will be offered to probation and parole officers in 2014.
Impaired Driving Initiatives have developed model programs to train school personnel and Texas employers to recognize the signs and symptoms of impairment. In addition, law enforcement officers are provided national specialty training to detect drugged drivers on the road. Those programs will continue with TxDOT grant funding.