Drugged drivers becoming as prevalent as drunk drivers

Drugged drivers becoming as prevalent as drunk drivers
Earl Prince (left) and Rodney Gardner, Sr. (right)
Earl Prince (left) and Rodney Gardner, Sr. (right)
GSP says painkillers are harder to detect than alcohol
GSP says painkillers are harder to detect than alcohol

AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - According to the Center for Disease Control, the amount of prescription painkillers bought in the US has quadrupled since 1999. But it's not the use of the drugs that is problematic, its the use before operating a vehicle.

Georgia law enforcers are actively fighting to keep the roads safe from those driving under the influence. According to the Governors highway safety association, 40 percent of fatally-injured drivers test positively for drugs.

Georgia State Patrol Corporal Earl Prince explains why it's not just alcohol or marijuana endangering people on the roads.

"It's a lot easier to get those illegal drugs," said Prince. "Prescription drugs. You can go to your parent's medicine cabinet and open it up and get pain pills or something out of there."

Even those drivers using prescribed drugs for the right purpose are not exempt from the law.

"Just because you're getting a written prescription for those drugs, Prince reminded. "Does not mean that it's okay to drive under the influence of those drugs."

One GSP senior patrolman has a warning for those who think their painkillers are harmless.

"Anything that you can ingest that can cause you to not be able to operate that vehicle safely, said Rodney Gardner, Sr. "You can be charged for impairment."

And the Georgia state patrol is continuing its efforts to detect drug use. Because prescription drugs don't give off a noticeable odor like alcohol, officers have specific techniques to detect impairment.

"All it's doing is doing certain evaluations of your eyes," said Prince. "Your eyes ain't going to lie to us. They're going to tell us whether you're under the influence of something."

"Your eyes tell you a lot," said Gardner. "Most of your pain medication constricts your pupils. So therefore that's some detection right there. Slurred speech, watery eyes."

Gardner was awarded a silver pin from Mother's against Drunk drivers this year for his high number of DUI arrests. He says it's not about being a pest. It's about saving lives.

"We're getting out more, assured Gardner. "Working with the public. And just out trying to work a little harder just to keep the motor public here in Georgia safe."

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