CINCINNATI -- Impaired drivers aren’t just on the roads when everyone else is asleep.
Drugged driving has become a 24-hour problem in Ohio, according to Lt. Robert Sellers, public affairs commander for Ohio State Highway Patrol.
“The drug-impaired drivers aren’t only out there at night with the bar crowd,” Sellers said. “It’s not the old 10 to 2 a.m. is when impaired drivers are out there."
In 2017, the highest number of drug-related OVI crashes occurred between the hours of 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., according to Ohio State Highway Patrol data.
“There are people out there impaired on drugs, that are driving on the roadway as you’re going to work, from work, from the store, just doing your everyday driving as a citizen,” Sellers said.
Sellers said OVI cases involving drugs have increased over the years so much that officials started to track all OVIs in 2015. The agency’s Statistical Analysis Unit tracks these instances by county, month, day of the week and time of day.
Sellers said most impaired drivers use a combination of drugs. Combined marijuana and alcohol use are most prevalent, he said.
A woman charged with hitting and killing a longtime Elder teacher in December had been smoking marijuana before she got behind the wheel, police said.
Kayla Wilson, 23, pleaded guilty to hitting 74-year-old Mark Klusman during a community cleanup event in Price Hill. Klusman died the day after Christmas at University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
There were 409 drug-related OVIs in Hamilton County alone in 2017, according to Ohio State Highway Patrol data. Across Ohio, there were 4,850 OVIs involving drugs in 2017, and 179 were fatal. Those numbers are up from 2016, when the state saw 2,265 OVIs involving drugs.
“As a state trooper, you know you see impaired drivers all day,” Sellers said. “But to see it on that scale was pretty amazing.”
Sellers said the rise is “significant,” but it is partially due to enhanced training and patrol.
“As law enforcement, we recognized a problem, we’ve trained our people to be better at detecting drug-impaired drivers, so there is a little correlation there,” Sellers said.
Drug Recognition Experts conduct 12-step evaluations to determine which type of drug a driver may have used. There are over 200 experts in Ohio, and Sellers says that number is growing.
Motorists can help law enforcement track down impaired drivers by reporting suspicious activity. Sellers recommends drivers keep their distance from a driver who may be impaired and to dial 911 or #677.
“We know we need to do something about it, and everyone can contribute to that,” Sellers said.
Real Time Editor Abby Anstead contributed to this report.