Impaired Driving Training Targets Remote Texas Counties

Law enforcement officers in remote areas of Texas will receive training on detecting drunk and drugged drivers through a special grant awarded to the Impaired Driving Initiatives program at Sam Houston State University.

Sam Houston State University teamed up with the Texas Department of Transportation to apply for the grant and was only one of four recipients selected nationwide out of 27 agencies that sought funding.

The grant, funded by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility and the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), will provide Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) training in Abilene, Arlington, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Harlingen, Lubbock and Midland. The programs will include free courses for up to 200 local and county law enforcement officers, school and campus police, Department of Public Safety troopers, and prosecutors’ offices to recognize the signs and symptoms of impaired driving in order to keep Texas roads safer.

“The training is geared toward a number of Texas counties with wide expanses of roadways, including those within reach of the Texas international border that unfortunately have a number of fatal crashes involving drugs and alcohol,” said Cecil Marquart, Project Director of the Impaired Driving Initiatives Program. “Reducing the number of crashes and fatalities in these areas would benefit the state economically and protect the public, thus enhancing road safety in a number of Texas counties.”

There were 3,189 fatal vehicle crashes on Texas roads in 2014, with 593 involving alcohol and 231 involving drugs, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. In 2015, the Governors Highway Safety Association reported that 40 percent of fatally-injured drivers in the U.S. tested positive for drugs – almost the same as for alcohol -- and one in five drivers had drugs or medication in their system during annual roadside testing.

The program will include up to eight of the top 25 counties in Texas for impaired driving fatalities. Among the 16 counties targeted by the grant are Andrews, Aransas, Bee, Cameron, Crosby, Ector, El Paso, Gray, Hale, Hidalgo, Hockley, Howard, Jim Wells, Kleberg, Lamb, Lubbock, Midland, Nueces, Ochiltree, Potter, Randall, Reeves, Refugio, Starr, Terry, Ward and Willacy.

The training is designed to bridge the gap between standard field sobriety testing and the recognition of impairments caused by drugs, alcohol, or a combination. The program educates officers about impaired driving, the effects of drug and alcohol on the ability to operate a vehicle safely, and methods to identify and process the impaired driver.

Since 2007, the Impaired Driving Initiatives Program at Sam Houston State University has trained more than 2,600 officers in ARIDE in Texas. The program also trains Drug Recognition Experts, a National Transportation Safety Program that focuses on the apprehension of impaired drivers. Less than 1 percent of law enforcement in Texas are certified as DREs.

In addition to assisting law enforcement, the Impaired Driving Initiatives program also offers training for school personnel, probation and parole officers as well as employers on recognizing drug and alcohol use in an effort to improve safety on the roads.

The ARIDE programs are available from August – December 2016. For a full list, visit the
Impaired Driving Initiative ARIDE Upcoming Events.

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