National pilot program works to help reduce daytime impaired driving in Toledo area

TOLEDO (WTVG) - For more than 35 years every President of the United States has declared December National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.
Statistics show that millions of Americans get behind the wheel when they're impaired by alcohol or drugs every year.

The numbers are staggering. In fact, a big percentage of Ohio State Highway Patrol arrests in the Toledo area are connected to drugged driving. Grant money from a national pilot program is being used here to help put the brakes on the disturbing trend.

Sgt. Jared Ulinski has been with OSHP for 19 years. In that time, drugged driving has become a growing problem, "Last year alone, 50% of the arrests in this district were related to drugged driving."

Jamie Blazevich is the Traffic Safety Coordinator for Lucas County, "Drugged driving is the same as drunk driving. If you feel different, you will drive different. We're asking people to go out and have a good time, but plan ahead. Have a designated driver."

People may assume most of the drugged driving happens at night, but Blazevich says that's not the case, "It is not just a night time problem anymore, it is a morning noon and night issue." Because of that, Blazevich says money from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will pay for extra troopers on the road in our area during the month of December at a certain time, "Here in Lucas County we have received a grant that will be specifically used for daytime impairment enforcement."

So how is drugged driving detected? Sgt. Ulinski says the tests are no different than those done for suspected drunk driving, "Your opioids and things like that are depressants of the nervous system just like alcohol. So we do standard field sobriety tests."

Keeping drugged and drunk drivers off the road is of course a year-round effort. Sgt. Ulinski says there's a specially trained group of troopers called Drug Recognition Experts who go through extra training, "They are taught how to detect impairment in people who have been taking opiates, prescription drugs and things like that. They are trained to look at heart and breathing rates because drugs affect your system differently. Some drugs speed those rates up, others slow them down. "

You can help state troopers fight back against drugged and drunk driving. All you have to do is dial #677 on your phone to report impaired drivers.