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Central Pennsylvania Sees Increase in Drug-Related DUI Arrests



DUI arrests are up in Central Pennsylvania. Last year, only 25 DUI arrests were made in Bellefonte, Penn. This year, the number has risen to 93. Increased staffing with more officers patrolling is one reason for the increase. A second reason deals not with enforcement but the type of intoxication.This year, Bellefonte police have arrested the same number of motorists (25) for driving while under the influence of drugs, as were arrested last year for all DUI offenses combined. Police are becoming much more aware of the number of people who are driving under the influence of drugs, rather than alcohol.

Drugged Driving Rates Double

Officials note that in the past they would pull over a motorist for erratic driving and administer a blood-alcohol test. If the driver passed, he or she went on his or her way. No longer. Now, if officers have a question about a driver, they call a trained drug recognition expert, who performs a field-test to determine if the driver is under the influence of drugs. Presently, there are only about 6,000 drug recognition experts worldwide, but that number is rapidly growing. Bellefonte is considering sending more police officers for the training in light of the fact that arrests for drugged driving have doubled. The arrests aren't coming at DUI checkpoints. Rather, most of the arrests result when motorists are pulled over for poor driving.

Types of Drug Use Noted

The drugs involved include more than illegal marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Arrests due to the use of prescription drugs have risen, as well. One officer noted that it's not unusual for someone to take an extra pill because their back hurts, go out for a glass of wine, and become impaired. It happens frequently. Also on the rise are arrests for use of so-called "fake" drugs. Smoking certain types of incense, snorting bath salts, and even abusing nutmeg have been reported as causing impairment. Do this and drive, and you'll be arrested.

So if you're impaired and driving in central Pennsylvania but pass the blood-alcohol test, do not assume that you are home free. The next call could be to a trained drug recognition expert.