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New report shows more drivers tested positive for drugs than alcohol in Indiana fatal crashes

Drugged driving a growing concern on Indiana roads
Posted at 7:32 PM, Jul 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-02 20:58:00-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A new report released this week reveals a disturbing trend on Indiana roadways—drivers under the influence of drugs.

Call 6 Investigates exposed the drugged driving problem back in May and revealed the percentage of Indiana State Police OWI arrests rose from 8% in 2016 to 14% in 2018.

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The study by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute and the IU Public Policy Institute analyzed crash data from 2018, and found more drivers tested positive for drugs after a fatal crash than were alcohol impaired.

Among drivers killed, 38 percent were alcohol compared and 45 percent tested positive for one or more drugs.

"We're seeing the drug tests come back positive at a higher rate than we are seeing alcohol impairment," Will Wingfield, Communications Director with the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, said.

Wingfield said drivers are getting the message about alcohol and they’re using Uber, Lyft and other services, but the same is not true with using illegal drugs, prescriptions and over the counter drugs.

“As alcohol fatalities and crashes go down, the drug impaired crashes and fatalities are starting to take up a bigger share,” Wingfield said.

As we head into the busy 4th of July weekend, law enforcement agencies are warning everyone to be careful when consuming alcohol.

"Even if you've been on an over the counter medication or a prescription medication, you may not know how it reacts with alcohol," Wingfield said.

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute is working to keep impaired drivers off the roads by securing funding for more drug recognition experts who are trained in detecting when a driver is on drugs.

“It’s an effort being fought on multiple fronts,” said Wingfield.

There will be 248 drug recognition experts statewide starting next month.

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ICJI is also working to reduce the backlog at the state’s toxicology lab so they can process more impaired driver cases.

“At this point, the oldest case in the system is a little over 7 months, and fatal crashes are being tested within 30 days,” said Wingfield.

If you see an impaired driver, turn off the road away from the vehicle and call 911. Signs of impaired driving include:

  • Weaving, swerving, drifting, or straddling the center line
  • Driving at a very slow speed
  • Braking erratically
  • Making wide turns
  • Stopping without cause
  • Responding slowly to traffic signals
  • Driving after dark with headlights off
  • Closely missing an object or vehicle
  • Turning abruptly or illegally
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road

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