According to the Institute for Traffic Safety and Management Research, fatal crashes involving a drug-impaired driver in New York increased by nearly 31 percent between 2013 and 2016.
Those in charge of keeping the roads safe are not fond of this trend.
"We’re seeing a large increase in crashes, injuries, and fatalities,” said Chuck DeWeese, the assistant commissioner for the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee.
DeWeese explains not only illicit drugs are in use but others like prescription drugs. He hopes nine police officers, the most recent graduates of the Drug Recognition Expert program, will help stem that tide.
There are 270 certified Drug Recognition Experts across the state who are trained to detect impairment through drugs. Recent graduates explained the process for detection to us.
"The first thing I get called out [then] initial observations and [then I] follow the 12-step process from there," said Trooper Joseph Sparacino, one of the graduates on Friday. "In the end I form an opinion as far as which of the seven drug categories the subject is under the influence of.”
The Drug Recognition Expert course is about three weeks long, and that includes an introductory course — which is 72 hours of classroom instruction and exams.
When it comes to aggressively prosecuting impaired drivers, officials say these experts will play a vital role.
The officers are certified for two years and are expected to meet requirements for re-certification.