By Skyler Ashley
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter
DEWITT — DeWitt has been facing difficulties in regards to “drugged driving” i.e., driving while under the influence of drugs.
The crime is classified as Operating While Under the Influence of Drugs (OWID) and problems arise for police officers, because there does not exist a simple test for sobriety akin to a Breathalyzer.
Police officers must know the symptoms of the various highs in order to make an effective arrest.
“Prescription meds, heroin, it’s all so prevalent now. In this county, it’s getting to be that 10 percent of our intoxicated drivers are intoxicated under the influence of drugs. We see it steadily going up,” DeWitt Police Chief Bruce Ferguson said.
It is not just prescription medication and drugs that are causing trouble on the road, inhalants such as computer duster have also been worrisome.
In 2015 from May to October, there were 5 deaths across Michigan that all involved huffing while driving.
Ferguson remembers DeWitt itself suffering a similar incident in 2012, involving the death of a teenager due to inhaling computer duster.
Tragically, he had turned to homemade methods of intoxication, as he could no longer use alcohol due to the preliminary breath tests required by his probation.
Circumventing alcohol probation has also been a common risk factor for drug abuse.
“It’s not bizarre anymore; it’s getting pretty commonplace,” Ferguson said.
As drugs become more and more prevalent, especially opiates (which saw a steady rise in prescriptions from 1991 to 2011), so do fatalities from abuse, whether or not they involved automobiles.
In fact, overdose deaths are now surpassing traffic accident deaths in general. In 2013, the Center for Disease Control reported 43,982 overdose deaths (51.8 percent related to prescription meds), while the National Highway Safety Administration reported 32,719 deaths from auto accidents.
“It’s astronomical,” Ferguson said.