Press-Republican

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February 4, 2012

Drugged-driving arrests increase

PLATTSBURGH — Drugged-driving arrests have risen 35 percent in New York since 2001.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer recently drew attention to the increase, while noting that the total number of arrests lags far behind drunk-driving arrests.

Many police departments don't have the technology to detect drugged drivers at traffic stops, like a Breathalyzer does with a drunk driver, Schumer said in a news release.

That, paired with the delayed disorientation a drugged driver shows compared to a drunk driver, makes it difficult for officers to identify people under the influence of narcotic drugs.

Schumer is calling for a passing of legislation to help with the problem.

THE BILL

The bill he is proposing — called the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Improvement Act of 2011 — would provide funding that allows the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to develop technologies that would help officers identify those driving under the influence of drugs.

It would also provide money to train officers on how to spot the signs of a drugged motorist.

"Drugged driving is on the rise, and our cops need state-of-the-art equipment and better training to identify and apprehend those who are putting innocent victims at risk as a result of reckless driving," Schumer said in the release.

The legislation would also award grants to states to allow officers to become drug-recognition experts through 200 hours of training or undergo lesser training through the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driver Education program.

LOCAL ARRESTS

According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice, 23 drivers were caught under the influence of drugs in 2011 in Clinton County, up from 2009, when there were 10.

In Franklin County, three drugged-driving arrests were made in 2009, 10 in 2010 and nine in 2011.

For Essex County, the numbers are small but actually declined: six in 2009 and seven in 2010, then two in 2011.

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