Valley police seeing increase of "drugged driving" arrests

Posted at 10:24 PM, Jun 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-03 00:30:57-04

It's a dangerous, even deadly problem across the United States: drugged driving, and according to some studies, it's on the rise. 

Recently, ABC15 went on a ride-along with Tempe Police, officers were looking for impaired drivers. 

"Impairment is the number one thing the officer is looking for," explained Officer Eric Jensen. "And it's not always alcohol."

Not by a long shot. 

According to the Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety, alcohol-related DUI arrests are going down while the number of "drugged driving" arrest have gone up by more than ten times. 

Some argue that's because there has been a bigger crackdown in recent years, but other agencies report similar findings. 

There are also more resources available, like officers who are specially trained to spot high drivers known as "drug recognition experts." 

Officers in the field are seeing it too, saying it's a combination of drugs, although they point their fingers at one in particular.

"If have to give it one drug category, of course, it would be marijuana," Officer Jensen said. 

In states like Colorado, where voters approved recreational marijuana in 2012, pot-related traffic deaths more than doubled between 2013 and 2016. This was for crashes where drivers tested positive for the drug, according to the Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. 

The study did not specify when exactly the driver had used, meaning the drug could have been used at an earlier time but still showed up in the driver's system. 

"It's easy to look away and hope they get home safe," Officer Jensen said. "But we all need to have the courage to say something."