According to the Michigan State Police, traffic fatalities involving drugs have increased in recent years. Troopers from the Gladstone Post are working to reverse this statistic with the help of the new Drug Recognition Expert among their ranks.
Trooper Mark Erickson is one of 22 officers from agencies around the state who participated in a recent DRE course. The rigorous course, which includes instruction and testing in Lansing followed by real-world experience at the Maricopa County Jail in Arizona, teaches officers to recognize signs of drug use in impaired drivers.
“As a whole, there’s 85 different indicators that we are looking for between all seven drug categories,” Erickson said. “A lot of these things people can’t hide, they can’t cover up, and that’s part of what we’re training to look for and document.”
Finding these indicators can also expedite blood tests, as it narrows the spectrum of possible drugs to test for. DREs are also able to give their opinions as experts in court. The ultimate goal of this training is to improve safety for everyone on the roads.
“What we’re doing is we are just trying to make sure that everybody gets home safe,” added Erickson. “If I have a quiet night, I consider that to be a successful night. You know, if I see five taxis filled up, I smile. I want to make sure that people are getting home safe and not saying, ‘well, I’ll be alright. You know I just took a couple of pain pills, but I’ve got to run to the store,’ and that’s when bad things happen, unfortunately, and that’s what we’re trying to prevent.”
Detecting the signs of an overdose in impaired drivers is another skill that DREs can use to help prevent drug-related casualties.