HARRISBURG, Pa., April 7, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In Pennsylvania's latest effort to bolster highway safety, 11 state troopers and five municipal police officers have been certified by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as drug recognition experts, or DREs, Pennsylvania State Police acting Commissioner Frank Noonan announced today.
"The Drug Evaluation and Classification Program is a national effort to train police officers to determine when an individual has been driving under the influence of drugs and to identify the type of drug causing the impairment," Noonan said.
The program also trains officers to recognize whether an individual is suffering from a medical condition rather than drug impairment, he said.
"Alcohol is the intoxicant most often responsible for impaired driving, but it's not the only one that renders individuals incapable of safe driving," Noonan said. "Drug Recognition Experts are trained to determine if a driver is under the influence of illegal drugs, prescription drugs or any other substance that impairs a person's ability to operate a vehicle safely."
Motorists should know that they may be incapable of driving safely and can be charged with driving under the influence after ingesting any intoxicating substance, whether the substance is legal or illegal, prescribed by a physician or purchased over the counter, Noonan said.
"Individuals need to be aware of how taking a particular drug will affect their body," Noonan said.
Pennsylvania's DRE training program is coordinated by Cpl. David Andrascik of the PSP Bureau of Patrol's Driving Under the Influence/Field Operations Section.
The program, which was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and approved by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, includes classroom study and hands-on exercises for participating officers, Andrascik said. As part of the training, participants are required to conduct evaluations of actual subjects impaired by drugs.
In 2004, Pennsylvania became the 39th U.S. state to have a Drug Evaluation and Classification Program approved by the IACP. With the additional officers obtaining certification, the state now has 70 troopers and 22 municipal police officers certified as DREs.
Since the program began, Andrascik said, Pennsylvania DREs have conducted more than 4,000 evaluations of people believed to be impaired by substances other than alcohol. Last year alone, he added, the DREs conducted 1,450 evaluations.
In about 39 percent of the cases, Andrascik said, the motorists were determined to be under the influence of central nervous system depressant drugs such as alprazolam and diazepam. Other drugs identified in the evaluations included marijuana (38 percent), narcotic analgesic drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone (35 percent) and central nervous system stimulant drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines (12 percent).
In about 37 percent of the evaluations, the motorists were determined to be under the influence of more than one category of drugs, Andrascik said.
Troopers certified in March as DREs were Tpr. Christopher T. Cole, Troop B, Uniontown; Tpr. Bryon K. Dickson II, Troop N, Fern Ridge; Tpr. Derek D. Felsman, Troop N, Swiftwater; Tpr. Shawn M. Haines, Troop K, Philadelphia; Tpr. Matthew A. LoPresto, Troop M, Trevose; Tpr. David J. McClintock, Troop A, Greensburg; Tpr. Mathew J. Petrof, Troop C, Kane; Tpr. Theodore S. Race, Troop C, Kane; Tpr. Todd M. Stephenson, Troop B, Uniontown; Tpr. John G. Thacik, Troop H, Lykens; and Tpr. Jason M. Trupp, Troop J, Embreeville.
Municipal police officers certified last month as DREs were Officer Katie Justh, Lower Allen Police Department, Cumberland County; Sgt. Daryl J. LaPointe, Bethlehem Township Police Department, Northampton County; Officer Bryn L. Lindenmuth Jr., Southwestern Regional Police Department, York County; Cpl. Jason P. Negron, South Whitehall Police Department, Lehigh County; and Patrolman Jason A. Nothstein, Walnutport Police Department, Northampton County.
For more information about Pennsylvania State Police, visit www.psp.state.pa.us or call 717-783-5556.
Media contact: Lt. Myra A. Taylor or Jack J. Lewis, 717-783-5556
SOURCE Pennsylvania State Police Department