MESA, AZ - Drivers beware. The Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety reported that 'drugged' driving is on the rise.
According to data released by AZGOHS , there was a rise in DUI drug arrests every year in the past decade, except for 2007.
While total DUI arrests have gone down this year, DUI drug arrests went up 11.9 percent in 2012 compared to the year before. In 2011, there were a total of 32,441 DUI arrests. In 2012, that number dropped to 29, 371. DUI drug arrests were at 3,576 in 2011 but jumped to 4,005 in 2012.
DUI Drug Arrests (2003-2012)
Total DUI Arrests (2003-2012)
Lt. Thomas Intrieri, with Mesa PD's traffic division and part of a DUI task force, said prescription drugs are becoming a big problem.
"Prescription drugs has had a significant increase in impaired driving as well as day-to-day life in our society. CDC did a report in 2009 that showed over the last ten years, the number of deaths resulting from prescription drug overdoses rose over 370%. That certainly has a significant impact," Lt. Intrieri said.
Intrieri says all Mesa traffic officers have gone through special training to detect 'drugged' driving. A large number of traffic officers in our state are not trained and it can be a challenge, he said.
"Whenever you have somebody impaired by drugs you don't have the physical signs, such as the odor of alcohol. Some of the symptoms are very similar: bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech," Intrieri said.
Intrieri warns drivers who may get behind the wheel unknowingly impaired. The penalty is essentially the same.
"There isn't a difference between prescription drugs versus illicit drugs. The statute remains the same. The driver has the obligation, if they are given medication and they're not to be driving on those, they shouldn't."