By Carolyn Cockroft, Program Manager, IACP Drug Evaluation and Classification Program
n the evening of January 10, 2014, a truck slammed into a Colorado State Patrol (CSP) Ford Crown Victoria, pushing it into a CSP Dodge Charger. The driver of the truck was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs.
This time, no one was injured—when the crash occurred, the CSP troopers were investigating another crash and were not in their vehicles.1
Drugged driving puts at risk not only the driver and passengers, but also others who share the road, including officers. While the dangers of impaired driving to communities has long been a concern to law enforcement, the IACP’s initiative on officer safety draws even more attention to safeguarding officers from the threat of drugged driving.
A major goal of the President’s National Drug Control Strategy is to reduce drugged driving by 10 percent by 2015. Among the initiatives to reach this mark are the continued support for training officers to identify drug-impaired drivers and the collection of more comprehensive data to support effective policy development.2
Training for Officers in Drug Detection and Impairment
|Each state has a DRE training coordinator who has access to the DRE Data System website. For the contact information of your state’s DRE coordinator, go to www.decp.org and click on your state in the map on the home page. Your state coordinator can give you information you need from the tracking system and, if you so choose, can provide a password for entry into the system for you or a designated agency coordinator. Each DRE in your agency has an individually assigned password for entering data from DRE evaluations.|
For more information, contact Carolyn Cockroft at email@example.com.
The training component of the administration’s goal has already been addressed and active since the late 1980s, when the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program (DECP) was established to provide training to federal, state, local, and tribal jurisdictions in detecting and arresting drivers impaired by drugs. The program is coordinated by the IACP with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. In addition to officers who are certified as drug recognition experts (DREs), the DECP educates prosecutors and judges in the prosecution of drugged drivers.
In 1989, seven states offered the DRE training. Today, 25 years since the nationwide establishment of the DECP, all 50 states participate in the DECP. More than 21,000 officers have been certified by the DECP and, today, close to 7,200 DREs are active throughout the United States and Canada.3
Importance of Data Collection to the DECP
Police executives recognize the importance of data collection to justify funding for their departments. Similarly mid-level managers rely on complete data to determine efficient shift coverage, overtime, and other essential tasks. Without data, the effectiveness and achievements of an agency can be unnoticed, or worse, undervalued.
As stated in the National Drug Control Strategy, data collection will play a major role in future drugged driving initiatives. In fact, the success and continuance of the DECP relies largely on data collection. Unlike other statistics that are generated from outside sources such as the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) census and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which glean their statistics from submitted reports, the data needed to generate statistics for the DECP is obtained by the DREs who enter the results of their drug evaluations and subsequent toxicology testing confirmations.
The evaluation, and the information gathered from it, is collected through a systematic and consistent 12-step procedure used by the DRE when assessing a driver suspected of impairment by a drug other than alcohol.4 For this reason, a personalized data collection system is necessary that records the DRE’s final decision on what drug is present and toxicology conclusions, and then collects the results in a rolling log feature that the DRE can use to track and record the DRE’s personal drug evaluation history. This log will later fulfill a requirement for the DRE’s recertification as well as validate the DRE’s subsequent testimony in court.
The collected data provide valuable statistics on drug use, drug trends, crash involvement, demographics of users, and other significant factors; furthermore, this information greatly assists in developing strategies and countermeasures to address the ongoing drugged driving problem in the United States. But perhaps one of the most important aspects of DRE evaluation data is the evidence it provides to justify the cost and time of training police officers to become DREs and remove drug-impaired drivers from the roadways.
Origins of DRE Data Collection
In 1995, as the DECP was expanding throughout the United States and more police agencies were assessing the program’s value and success, the IACP began exploring with other states, such as Colorado and Texas, the benefits of collecting data that would validate the critical need for DRE training. Several states utilized the skills of DREs trained in computer technology to develop an automated system that collected the data from evaluations being conducted by DREs throughout the United States.
As the need for data collection continued to grow, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the funding agency for the DECP, began in 2008 to consolidate two separate websites into a single URL at www.sobrietytesting.org. This new website has a vast collection of information on impaired driving enforcement for all law enforcement users. Active certified DREs have access rights to the DRE Data System, which is designed to collect drug impairment evaluation data from DREs, and record drug toxicology results of drug-impaired drivers. Data is captured also on medical rule outs, toxicology/no drugs found, alcohol rule outs, no impairment, medical marijuana card holders, and refusals. Based on the information entered by the users, reports and data can be easily generated from the system.
Data Collection Is More Critical Now than Ever Before
With the growing number of states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana, drugged driving will likely continue to increase across the United States at an alarming rate; furthermore, the nonmedical use of prescription drugs is now the second most prevalent form of illicit drug abuse in the United States.5 In 2009, 3,952 drivers tested positive for drugs other than alcohol, a statistic representing 18 percent of all fatally injured drivers or 33 percent of drivers with known drug test results.6 In 2012, 10.3 million persons, or 3.9 percent of the population aged 12 years or older reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs during the previous year—higher than the rate in 2011 (3.7 percent).7 With the growing number of certified DREs, the number of evaluations conducted by DREs is also increasing. Yet approximately only 65 percent of all DREs in the United States currently use the National DRE Tracking System to enter drug evaluation data. The database indicates that 4,510 DREs are entering data; yet the IACP’s credential records indicate that 6,940 certified DREs are currently active. These DREs conducted approximately 26,332 drugged driving enforcement evaluations in the year 2012; therefore, a significant number of evaluations performed by the DREs who do not currently use the tracking system were never entered in the system.
Law enforcement leaders understand that statistics need to be as accurate as possible. If DREs from an agency enter their evaluations, the agency (and its leadership) gets much-deserved credit for the work that the DREs are doing. The data tracking system allows law enforcement to access accurate and up-to-date statistics, but it is effective only if DREs are entering their data in a timely fashion.
The DRE Data System is an important resource for understanding the nature of the drugged driving problem and reflects the lifesaving work accomplished by DREs throughout the United States. Law enforcement leaders’ efforts to ensure that their agencies’ DREs (as well as the DREs within other jurisdictions within their states) are using this critical tool are needed more than ever if the IACP and NHTSA are to present a compelling case for the value of DRE training. ♦
1Colorado State Patrol’s Facebook page, January 12, 2014, https://www.facebook.com/ColoradoStatePatrol (accessed February 5, 2014).
2Office of National Drug Control Policy, Reducing Drugged Driving and Protecting Public Health and Safety, Fact Sheet, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/Fact_Sheets/drugged_driving_fact_sheet_12-11-12_2.pdf; and The White
House, 2013 National Drug Control Strategy, http://www.whitehouse.gov//sites/default/files/ondcp/policy-and-research/ndcs_2013.pdf (both accessed February 5, 2014).
3The International Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, “About DECP,” http://www.decp.org/about (accessed February 5, 2014).
4The International Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, “The 12-Step DRE Protocol,” http://www.decp.org/experts/12steps.htm (accessed February 5, 2014).
5The White House, National Drug Control Strategy (February 2009), http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/policy/national/ndcs2009.pdf (accessed February 5, 2014).
6Drug Testing and Drug Involved Driving of Fatally Injured Drivers in the United States: 2005–2009 (Washington, DC: National Drug Control Policy, October 2011), http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ondcp/issues-content/fars_report_october_2011.pdf (accessed February 5, 2014).
7“Driving Under the Influence of Illicit Drugs,” in Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings, NSDUH Series H-47, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4805 (Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013), http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2012SummNatFindDetTables/NationalFindings/NSDUHresults2012.htm#ch2.15 (accessed February 5, 2014).
Please cite as:
Carolyn Cockroft, “Data Collection on DUIs More Critical Now than Ever,” Highway Safety Initiatives, The Police Chief 81 (March 2014): 64–65.