Jones County steps up efforts to keep drug-impaired drivers off the roads

Published: Dec. 3, 2015 at 2:36 PM CST
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The Jones County Sheriff's Office is taking another step in the fight against drugs.

The sheriff said over the last several years he's seen an increase in the number of people driving impaired with drugs - other than alcohol.

One deputy recently went through an intensive federal training program to become a Drug Recognition Expert or DRE. They specifically search out and target drug-impaired drivers to help keep the roads safe.

Deputy Tim Smith is always on the lookout when he's on patrol, but after a month of training he's taking on a new perspective.

"When I'm running a traffic stop, I look for a lot of subtleties that I didn't before,” Deputy Smith said.

He's now trained to recognize drug-impaired drivers and conduct tests to identify what drugs the driver has used. The training focused on learning a 12-step procedure.

"We have seen a large influx of impaired drivers who are impaired by either a combination of alcohol and other drugs, or a drug, or combination of many categories of drugs in their system,” Deputy Smith said.

"We are up to - I would say maybe a third of our OWI cases involve a substance other than alcohol, which is a pretty alarming rate, considering the number of DRE experts that are out there across the state who are specifically targeting these types of drivers, so I think the need is there,” said Jones County Sheriff Greg Graver.

The sheriff said prescription drugs are one of the biggest concerns right now. He remembers a recent stop with alarming results on a drug evaluation.

"She was as impaired on prescription drugs as any drunk driver I've ever seen. So, there's literally no difference between alcohol impairment and drug impairment," Sheriff Graver said.

It becomes a bigger concern because the sheriff said there aren’t enough officers trained to handle a problem that’s so large.

Deputy Smith said many only have know-how to deal with drunk drivers.

“When you take that smell of alcohol away, lots of times without further training, these people are unfortunately being let go down the road,” Deputy Smith said.

This new Drug Recognition Expert is the most recently weapon in the on-going battle against drugs in Jones County.

"Our main goal is to reduce traffic fatalities, accidents, and injuries that are drug influenced persons. Ultimately, our goal and my goal is to make our roads safer, and get these people off the road,” Deputy Smith said.