In New York City, 357 drivers were arrested in 2011 for being under the influence of drugs — up from 81 ten years prior. That’s more than a 300 percent increase.
That’s why Sen. Chuck Schumer is making a funding push to crackdown on “drugged driving” through new on-site technologies that would identify drivers under the influence and through additional training for officers.
He made the call for stronger enforcement at a press conference yesterday with Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, where he argued that despite a growth in drugged driving arrests over the last decade, the number of arrests pale in comparison to drunk driving — due to the challenges of identifying drivers on drugs on the road.
His push is especially important since prescription drug use has become an epidemic, he said in a release sent out yesterday (This is not the first time this year that Schumer has fought an “epidemic” with a Sunday press conference).
This latest effort seems in line with the senator’s larger agenda to target misuses of pharmaceutical drugs — earlier this month, he called for better security at pharmacies to help curb illegal possession of substances like OxyContin.
The proposal he unveiled yesterday promotes legislation that would provide funding to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration that would allow for research on technologies that help officers identify drugged drivers at traffic stops. It would also fund training programs that would better prepare officers to recognize signs of drivers under the influence.
The legislation, called the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Improvement Act, could help governments implement systems such as saliva swab tests, for example.
His announcement comes on the heels of several recent accidents and deaths related to drugged driving in New York — in December, two incidents resulted in the deaths of a mother from Medford and a five-year-old boy from West Islip, the senator noted.
“The bottom line is, our cops need a breathalyzer-like technology that works to identify drug-impaired drivers, on-the-spot, before they cause irreparable harm,” he said in the release. “We have made tremendous progress in combating drunk driving, we cannot allow those gains to be erased by drugged drivers.”