February 4, 2023

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, 2022 was a record year for deaths on Colorado roads, with 736 fatalities. According to preliminary data, 37% were affected drivers.

CDOT surveys show that some drug users don’t believe they can get a DUI or that officers can’t tell they’re high. CDOT trains officers to investigate drug impairments.

After alcohol, CDOT data shows that cannabis (26%), methamphetamine (8%), amphetamine (7%) and cocaine (5%) are the top drugs detected in drivers involved in fatal accidents.

“Despite rigorous education and various modes of transportation, such as ridesharing, restricted driving remains a leading cause of fatal accidents in Colorado,” said Col. Matthew Packard, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “By investing in specialized training in behavioral and physiological drug impairment detection, we hope to strengthen law enforcement’s ability to effectively combat drug-impaired driving and ultimately save lives.”

The Drug Recognition Expert School is an intensive training course that provides officers with the knowledge and skills to determine if drivers are impaired by one or more drugs.

Glenn Davis, CDOT Highway Safety Manager, helps officers recognize the signs of impairment beyond alcohol.

“It’s time to look past people who are standing on one leg,” Davis said. “There are so many variables associated with being affected by one or more medications – the DRE certification is an advanced level education. Once they have that person in custody, they can test the person’s blood pressure and pulse. They’ll look at their eyes or different lights.”

According to Davis, indicators of impairment can include pupil size, eye-tracking behavior, the way the person speaks, heart rate, cognitive abilities, and the ability to complete tasks with divided attention.

The DRE process includes an assessment of the person’s appearance and behavior and a recording of vital signs. It is a systematic evaluation of everything about the person that could indicate the influence of drugs.

Sixteen law enforcement officers from communities across the state attended the Academy for Drug Detection Experts. Now this group is ready to put their knowledge to the test

“We send them to internships where they actually do tests on people who are drugged to make sure their skills are appropriate,” Davis said.

Colorado currently has 146 drug detection professionals in 22 counties with a goal of reaching over 200.

CSP says they will continue to focus their efforts on DUI drivers. You can also use the help of the public. Drivers can dial *277 to report a driver they believe is an impaired driver.

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