Called Impaired Driving Initiatives, the program funded by the Texas Department of Transportation offers training to law enforcement, school officials, employers, and probation and parole officers to identify the signs and symptoms of drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol.
"It’s a huge problem that the public doesn’t know exists," said Senior Trooper Chuck Carlile of the Texas Department of Public Safety Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division. "It’s rewarding when you get someone who is impaired off the road."
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 initiative operates two training programs to enhance law enforcement officers’ abilities to identify and evaluate impaired drivers. The programs are offered free of charge to municipal, county and state law enforcement personnel at locations throughout the state.
The Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement program provides officers with general knowledge about drug impairment and stresses the importance of collecting biological samples. The Drug Recognition Expert Course is a certification program which trains officers to detect and identify individuals under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and to pinpoint the substances that may be causing the impairment.
With teen deaths and injuries continuing to rise from alcohol and drug related crashes, the Impaired Driving Initiatives program also offers a training curriculum for school employees, including teachers, counselors, nurses, custodians, superintendents, coaches, driver education instructors, school bus drivers and board members, to help recognize the issue in their schools through the Drug Impairment Training for Education Professionals Program.
To promote safe driving in the workplace, Drug Impairment Training for Texas Employers was introduced to help employers identify the problems in businesses. They train supervisors and managers for public and private companies on how to identify drug and alcohol abuse among workers and to address those issues with policies and procedures.
“You know this stuff is out there, but you don’t know the extent they will go to hide it,” said James Ray Nicker and Danny Kuykendall of Walker County Precinct 4. “It is definitely usable information.”
Finally, the Impaired Driving Initiative recently added Drug Impairment for Texas Community Supervision and Parole Officers to its roster to help probation and parole officers identify impairments not only among their clientele, but in families as well.
“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.
Together, these initiatives are making Texas a safer place by reducing the number of traffic crashes and fatalities on Texas roadways.