Deadly crashes in Indiana involve more drugged drivers than drunk drivers

Deadly crash prompts closure on westbound I-70 in Putnam County on July 1, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — According to data from the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, more drivers in deadly crashes tested positive for drugs than for being alcohol impaired.

As police and the public crack down on drunk driving, drugged driving has become just as common and even more deadly.

In 2017, 90 drivers who died tested positive for drugs compared to 69 who were alcohol impaired. In 2018, 52 had drugs in their system compared to 43 who were alcohol impaired. Thirty-four tests are still pending.

“Drugged driving is really something that has only gotten attention in recent years, and we’re trying to put them on equal footing,” said Will Wingfield from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, which commissioned the report.

On Monday 42-year-old Brian Rosano hit and killed a man on I-70 near Cloverdale.  Police say he was under the influence of a controlled substance. They received six  911 calls about Rasono’s driving before the accident. Troopers were trying to track him down before the deadly outcome.

“Unfortunately, we have a large experience dealing with patients that get into traffic accidents that are impaired by either illegal or legal drugs,” said trauma surgeon Ian Ferries with the St. Vincent Trauma Center.

Ferries says it’s not just illegal drugs that affect your ability to drive. New prescriptions, especially when combined with alcohol, can also lead to trouble.

He says it’s important to listen to your doctor when taking medication.

“Those warnings come for a reason, and oftentimes disobeying those warnings can come with dire, dire outcomes,” Ferries said.

As nearby states begin to legalize marijuana, police are training to become certified “Drug Recognition Experts.”

“For a period of years we’ve been trying to build up the number of officers that are trained to recognize drug impairment,” Wingfield said. “There’s a whole battery of tests and it’s very complex. They have to go through a whole week of training to do that and they do off-site field testing to determine that as well.”

By the end of the summer, Wingfield says the state will have 250 officers certified, working to catch drugged drivers before it’s too late.

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