Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityI-Team: Officials report growing, dangerous trend of drivers impaired by multiple drugs | WPFO
Close Alert

I-Team: Officials report growing, dangerous trend of drivers impaired by multiple drugs

Officials report growing, dangerous trend of drivers impaired by multiple drugs
Officials report growing, dangerous trend of drivers impaired by multiple drugs
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon
Comment bubble

AUGUSTA (WGME) -- As Maine prepares for the roll out of retail marijuana and the opioid crisis rages on, drugged driving is a growing concern.

Police said a deadly crash in Windham last November was caused by a tow truck that crossed the center line on Route 115, hitting a Toyota Prius head on and killing the driver, Adam Clark.

The driver of the truck, Manford Rideout, had "Cocaine, THC and Benzodiazapines," or tranquilizers, in his system, according to court documents, which also say investigators believe he was on "some type of opioid."

"What we're really finding is that people are chemical gluttons," said Tom Reagan, the law enforcement liaison for the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

It's a dangerous trend officials are seeing more and more among drivers.

"We're finding six, nine drugs on board at the time," said Lauren Stewart, the Bureau of Highway Safety director.

She said there's upwards of seven to eight thousand arrests every year for impaired driving.

"So that's a lot of people driving impaired," she said.

State data on impaired driving doesn't make it clear which cases involve drugs, but anecdotally law enforcement officers believe it's on the rise.

"People are more inclined to experiment with drugs and, unfortunately, they're getting behind the wheel of a car after they do that," said State Trooper Josh D'Angelo.

He's the man behind the wheel of Maine's roadside testing vehicle, which is used to conduct sobriety checkpoints across the state.

Officials say detecting impairment from drugs is more difficult than alcohol, but the most valuable tool is drug recognition experts, or DRE's, who are highly trained to determine whether someone is on drugs, and if so, what category.

Reagan was a DRE for more than two decades.

"It's a 12- step process," he said. "You check their vital signs. Field sobriety test. The eyes are a great give away, pupil dilation, pupil constriction."

Right now, Maine has about 100 DRE's who performed 526 evaluations last year.

It can be hard to get them to more rural parts of Maine, especially when the clock is ticking.

"As an example, someone on inhalants, some of those indicators are already gone," said Jim Lyman, the impaired driving coordinator at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. "That's a very short-lived drug in the system. So that's a challenge for us trying to get a DRE there quick enough."

Lyman says they're working to increase the number of DRE's and offer an advanced training course that helps officers better detect drugs when they pull someone over. He said 800 officers have been through it.

Lyman said there is a growing concern right now since Maine has legalized marijuana and is getting closer to allowing retail sales.

Stewart agreed, adding "the THC of today is very different than the THC of years ago, and now there's edibles."

Some states have set limits for the level of THC in the blood and others are trying out roadside saliva testing.

"I think every state's looking at that right now," said Lyman. "Maine is not an oral fluid testing state. We primarily test urine."

Within the next year, Maine will transition to blood tests.

Comment bubble

"It will allow us to gather more information and data to help us fight impairment in the future," said Stewart.

Loading ...