WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – North Carolina is one of the leading states in training Drug Recognition Experts, or law enforcement officers who are experts in identifying impaired drivers under the influence of drugs other than alcohol, According to Cpt. Todd Radabaugh
Radabaugh says he has trained officers all over the country to recognize if a driver is impaired by drugs.
As a DRE himself, he was a key witness in the Thomas Grooms case.
Grooms was found guilty of killing Ronald and Trey Doolittle on River Road.
In the end, a DRE officer will conduct a 12-step evaluation on the driver to determine their level of impairment and category of drug they believe caused the impairment.
Radabaugh says the training is in high demand because of marijuana legalization in several states and an increase in prescription drug abuse.
“The DRE program has been around since 1978 and it is now recognized in every state,” said Radabaugh. “…Officers are more aware of the problem and are better trained and able to detect and prosecute individuals who get behind the wheel if they’re impaired by alcohol or any other substance.”
He says there are now more than 180 DRE officers in North Carolina and around seven in the greater Wilmington area.
“There was a time when I was the only drug recognition expert in a several county area here, but over the years we’ve done a great job with recruitment and retention,” said Radabaugh.
“In the 17 years that I’ve been a prosecutor, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of impaired cases coming about through something other than alcohol,” said New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David.
State data, however, has shown that the number of DRE evaluations have actually gone down in the past three years.
Radabaugh hopes this is due to drivers finally recognizing the consequences of driving while impaired.