Too many New Yorkers are driving under the influence of prescription drugs – and without the proper tools, the police cannot do enough to stop it, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said today.
Drugged driving arrests have increased 35 percent in New York state since 2001, Schumer announced at a press conference this morning, at the same time prescription drug abuse is becoming what many health experts are calling an epidemic. In 2009, 10.5 million Americans said they had driven while on drugs, according to Schumer's office.
In New York City, drugged driving arrests went up 340 percent in the last decade, he found. In 2011, 357 drivers were arrested for drugged driving within city limits, up from 81 in 2001.
But Schumer said those numbers still pale in comparison to the number of drunk driving arrests. But driving while under the influence of prescription drugs is just as dangerous as driving drunks, he said.
December, a mother from Medford, N.Y., died when a driver allegedly
under the influence of prescription drugs crashed and killed her while
she was standing near her car. Her 4-year-old child was strapped into a
car seat and survived the crash.
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A 5-year-old boy from West
Islip, N.Y., was also killed in December when a driver, reportedly later
found to have two partly-full oxycodone bottles, hit the truck his
father was driving.
There were 530 drugged driving arrests in
Long Island in 2011, up from 377 in 2001, a 40 percent increase,
Schumer's office found.
No methodology to identify drugged drivers exists yet, Schumer said. For example, drunk drivers undergo a breathalyzer, but police officers do not have a similar test to determine whether drivers are loopy on painkillers.
“Our cops need state-of-the-art equipment and better training to identify and apprehend those who are putting innocent victims at risk,” he said.
Schumer co-sponsored a bill that would give funding to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to find technology to ascertain whether drivers are drugged. The bill would also fund training for officers, he said.
“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.