Driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the most common charges filed in the area, with more than a dozen such cases filed in Williams County Northwest District Court in July alone.
For police, though, there’s more to consider.
In some cases, a person might be pulled over and even fail a sobriety test, but a blood or breath test shows they’re below the legal limit.
In that case, officers often turn to drug recognition experts.
The Williston Herald spoke with Tarek Chase, a trooper with the North Dakota Highway Patrol and a drug recognition expert.
Here are a few things to know about how police look for drugged drivers.
Becoming a drug recognition expert is a lot of work
Chase said in order to be certified as a drug recognition expert, officers have to go through two weeks of classroom training followed by a week of real-world experience.
“It’s a very intensive training,” he said.
The classroom training includes medical knowledge about how substances affect the body and how they are metabolized. The field training took place at the Maricopa County jail in Arizona, where inmates can volunteer to be examined.
“It helps (officers) identify impairment other than alcohol,” Chase said.
How it works
When an officer suspects a driver might be under the influence of drugs, a drug recognition expert might be called in. That person will look at the results of a field sobriety test and the person’s heart rate, blood pressure and other physical signs.
From there, the drug recognition expert determines, what, if any substance, the driver might be under the influence of. That doesn’t mean picking the precise substance, though.
“If someone was under the influence of meth, I would use the category that falls under, which is a central nervous system stimulant,” Chase said.
Drugs like heroin and other opiates, on the other hand, are classified as narcotic analgesics.
Personal responsibility is key
Some people take illegal drugs and then drive, but other cases aren’t as straightforward. Some people take a prescribed medicine and don’t realize the effect it might have.
Chase suggested talking with a doctor or pharmacist about how a prescription medicine might make you feel. And, he said, follow the advice about not operating heavy machinery — like a car or truck — until you see what it does.
“Take the prescription ahead of time to see how it affects your body,” he said.