ShareThis Page

New definition of DUI adds tool for law enforcement

Mary Ann Thomas
| Sunday, March 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

In 2004, Pennsylvania changed its DUI laws to include the word “drug,” DUID, not just “controlled substances,” which traditionally covered only illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.

And the number of DUID arrests has increased ever since.

In Pennsylvania in 2012, there were 50,000 DUI arrests. About 15,000, or 30 percent, of those were DUIDs, according to the Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

“The new law opened the floodgates to successfully prosecute any person impaired on any drug ranging from gasoline, bug and tar remover to designers drugs, prescription drugs,” said George Geisler, director of law enforcement services with the Pennsylvania DUI Association, eastern office in Harrisburg.

“Now, the new war is DUID,” said Cathy Tress, law enforcement liaison with the association.

A drug recognition expert and a police officer, Geisler trains police officers across the commonwealth to recognize the classic signs and symptoms of drug-impaired drivers.

“We examine drivers' eyes, their perception of time and distance, and then blood, pulse, body pressure and other indicators,” he said.

Geisler said, “We are looking at a tremendous switch to prescription drug abuse, over-the-counter drug abuse and of course, the designer drugs.”

Younger people feel comfortable with the manufacturing quality control of prescription drugs, Geisler said.

“They think that these drugs are ethical, and they don't have to go to a seedy area to get them,” he said.

Prescription drugs like the painkiller OxyContin and Ritalin are popular. Not surprisingly, sleep aids are causing problems.

“People are taking this Ambien (or other sleep aids) and not getting eight hours of sleep and are falling asleep while driving,” Geisler said.

Some patients at methadone clinics are causing havoc on the roads as well.

“People are taking methadone and driving when the light isn't so good. Methadone constricts their pupils, and they can't see well.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the International Association of Chiefs of Police developed the drug recognition expert program in the late 1970s in California.

Pennsylvania adopted the drug recognition expert program in 2004, the 39th state in the nation to do so, Geisler said.

About 121 drug recognition expert police officers work in the commonwealth, he said.

In 2007, ARIDE, the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement program, was introduced.

More than 6,000 police officers statewide have gone through that training.

An ARIDE training session is scheduled in May at the Kiski Township Police Department.

Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4691 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.