There are more drunk driving cases the criminal court system in South Dakota than anything else, but studies show that more and more of those drunk drivers have other chemicals in their system. While most officers go through extensive training to spot drunk drivers, an international training program is giving select officers another skill set.
Drug Recognition Expert Training (DRE) is a two-week exercise that combines study inside and outside of the classroom. At least twice during the training, officers test their skills on live volunteers.
"We have volunteers do controlled drinking. We dose them up with alcohol throughout the day to them to a certain BAC," said Sgt. Desmond Watson, DRE Instructor.
The BAC or blood alcohol content for the volunteers ranges anywhere between .08, which is the legal limit, and .12 when the DRE testing begins.
Using alcohol as a baseline, South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Kristoff DeKramer deploys the standard field sobriety tests. DRE training teaches the officers to look for other signs.
"You're taking pulse, measuring blood pressure, body temperature. Why we do that is because these drugs, each one causes different things to happen to you," said DeKramer.
By having live bodies as their homework, DRE training instructor, Chuck Matson says the officers get a sense of the real behavior and appearance they would encounter in the field.
"We can tell them what's going to happen in the classroom, we can show them a video. It really doesn't come home until they have to the opportunity to practice and perfect some of the tests with people who are actually impaired," said Matson.
DeKramer says it gives him more confidence on the job, and the tools to recognize the affects of drugs on a driver's ability behind the wheel.
"You know there's possibly more on board but you're not sure what you're seeing. Well, now through this training, I can say, yeah, I'm seeing that and this is why," said DeKramer.
The officers will undergo a more rigorous field test and comprehensive exam next week before earning the title drug recognition expert.