'Drugged Driving' Surpasses Drunken Driving Among Drivers Killed - WBOY - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

'Drugged Driving' Surpasses Drunken Driving Among Drivers Killed in Crashes

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When you hear about a DUI crash, you may think alcohol was involved, but that's not necessarily the case.  

Deputy Sheriff Ethan Mongold said, "We've even seen people overdose when driving and crash. They are unconscious when we get there, not because of the crash but because of the overdose."

It's called drugged driving, and now more Americans killed behind the wheel are testing positive for drugs, not alcohol. 

"It's really different than alcohol. Alcohol when you walk up, you can actually smell it coming from the vehicle. Drugs are a little different. Marijuana you can smell, but if you have someone who is impaired on cocaine, meth, heroin, it's kind of difficult to notice at first," Deputy Mongold added.

According to a recent report, drugs were present in 43 percent of drivers killed in 2015. For the first time surpassing alcohol-related deaths, which made up 37 percent of such incidents.

Deputy Mongold said, "Statistics are going up because we can recognize drugs more.  Also, drug use is going up, as well."

The study by the Governor's Highway Safety Program includes all categories of drugs including legal and prescription drugs.

Unlike a breathalyzer test for drunk drivers, police have no standard roadside test to detect most drugs. This can add challenges during traffic stops or DUI checkpoints. 

Lt. William Tennant, Monongalia County Sheriff's Department explained, "The last check point we had, we had a DRE officer here.  If he had not been here, we probably wouldn't have known why the guy was impaired.  He had signs of impairment, but there was no alcohol onboard.  If he hadn't have been here, we would have kind of been stuck."

In the past month, the Monongalia County Sheriff's Department hired a third narcotic specialist. 

"The big thing are the eyes. We always look at eyes. Do they have track marks, which are the needle puncture marks? Are they real fidgety? Sometimes they scratch their face a lot," said Deputy Mongold. "Then that's when, if we think we have enough probable cause to pull them out of the vehicle and start field sobriety testing, the tests are validated through alcohol, but they also transfer over to drugs, as well."

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