State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Driver beware: PA police watching for drugged driving over Labor Day

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 31, 2012 7:01 PM

Motorists traveling throughout the commonwealth over the Labor Day weekend can expect a ramped-up law enforcement presence.  Holiday weekends tend to mean more highway travel and more accidents due to impaired driving, so PennDOT and the State Police are setting up additional checkpoints and roving patrols to catch unsafe drivers. 

But George Geisler, a drug recognition expert with the Pennsylvania DUI Association said the crackdown will target not just drunk drivers, but anyone driving dangerously because of alcohol’s influence on prescription medications. 

“Many of those drugs, just a touch of alcohol added to those drugs will magnify the effects of the drugs and cause impairment,” said Geisler. 

Since 2005, the number of annual alcohol-related accidents has decreased, but according to PennDOT, drug-related crashes are trending upward – there were 3,073 such accidents in 2011, up by exactly 1,000 compared to the stats from 2005.

The agency notes that during last year’s Labor Day weekend, there were 111 alcohol-related crashes and three fatalities, as well as 22 drug-related crashes. 

A PennDOT spokeswoman said the agency is paying for the roughly four-day crackdown with federal funds.  PennDOT gets just over four million dollars to spend on such enforcement efforts throughout the year.

Geisler said motorists who see erratic driving should note the vehicle’s license plate and travel direction and report it as soon as possible to police.  “Pick up the phone and call 9-1-1,” he said.

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