Ohio cracking down on illegal and prescription drug abusers on the road with trained experts

CINCINNATI - Ohio is cracking down on illegal and prescription drug abusers after the recent expansion of a program that trains officers to recognize drug-impaired drivers.

In October of 2010, Ohio became the 49th state to implement this program. The state now has 76 certified drug recognition experts -- 14 of them are in southwest Ohio.

Clermont County's only drug recognition expert (DRE) is Milford Officer Russ Kenney.

It's Kenney's job to get drug abusers off the roads.

"Think about a person driving down at nighttime and as the lights are hitting them…as the oncoming cars are passing them, their pupils aren't able to constrict properly and they aren't able to give good depth perception," Kenney said. "They aren't able to give good vision when they're operating the vehicle, which could ultimately cause an accident."

According to Kenney, drug users can sometimes escape common blood alcohol tests completed during traffic stops because they aren't impaired from alcohol.

That's why Kenney says blood alcohol tests alone aren't enough.

"If their blood alcohol level is over a .08, there's no sense in calling in a [drug recognition expert]," Kenney said. "But if their blood alcohol level is a .04, but the impairment they see during the field sobriety test doesn't match up to that BAC, this is when they have to start thinking there are drugs on board."

So Kenney's evaluation process begins with figuring out what kind of drug, or drugs, the person may have used.

Part of that includes using a pupilometer, which determines the size of the pupil.

"When we shine a light into people's eyes, certain drugs slow the reaction to light down. For example, a stimulant," Kenney said.

But Kenney says these kinds of evaluations are also about finding the people who are not impaired.

"Some people have medical conditions, problems, illnesses and injuries that mimic impairment," he said.

By learning this information, he says he can help that person get medical attention immediately.

While prosecutors are praising the DRE program, Kenney says some defense attorneys believe its not scientifically accurate.

But Kenney says the program has been examined by supreme courts in other states and has passed.

Amy Wadas contributed to this report

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