APD reports increase in drugged driving

- The DUI arrest of Tiger Woods highlights what Austin police are calling a skyrocketing trend. Officers tell us drugged driving is just as dangerous as alcohol.

APD has assembled a team to spot the signs and lock those people up.

Dash camera video from the Jupiter, Florida Police Department shows an out of sorts Tiger Woods participating in a roadside sobriety test.

While he exhibits signs that seem like he's had too much to drink, police said he had zero alcohol in his system. In a statement Woods claimed his behavior was due to a mix of prescription medications.

"It's just as dangerous as alcohol if not more,” said APD Detective Mike Jennings.

Austin Police Detective Mike Jennings is what APD deems a drug recognition expert. When the department noticed drugged driving numbers going up back in 2012, it began training officers to recognize the symptoms of the seven drug categories.

The department now has 30 DREs on call to respond to patrol stops 24 hours a day. One is also stationed at the jail around the clock.

"Things are changing where you've got a lot more people medicated than they have been whether legally or illegally and it's started to cause an issue for us where law enforcement has to play catch up,” said Jennings.

In 2010 DREs performed 11 evaluations. Last year they performed 319. So far this year officers have done 120.

Jennings said depressants like Valium, Xanax and Ambien are the most prolific, marijuana comes in next. Lately, he said people are testing positive for a cocktail of drugs.

"We've had crashes where people were on Ambien and mixed it with alcohol and they don't even remember how they left the house and that's a dangerous thing,” said Jennings. "Really what we're trying to get across to people is that whether you're prescribed medication or not, however you came across it, if it is doing what medication does, which it alters your body in some way, you can be intoxicated based on the legal definition.”

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