In 2021, Responsibility.org and GHSA awarded grant funding for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) to increase education and the number of officers trained as Drug Recognition Experts (DREs).
Impaired driving is a serious issue in Wisconsin, as an average of 18% of traffic fatalities are related to driving under the influence of drugs. From 2018 to 2019, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene saw a 41% increase of positive tests in samples of drivers and a 5% increase in samples of drivers involved in motor vehicle death cases. The DRE training provides officers with specialized education to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Currently, 50 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have at least one DRE. WisDOT’s goal is to have at least one DRE in every county.
With the grant funding, WisDOT offered two DRE certification courses, increasing the state’s total number of trained DRE officers. As a result, from January 1, 2022 to December 20, 2022, the number of DRE evaluations increased by 11%. WisDOT created and distributed flyers about the DRE training program, including what the DRE training can do for an agency and how DRE training benefits the community.
Wisconsin is making great strides to increase the number of DRE-trained officers in counties throughout the state. With a focus on increasing underserved counties, WisDOT noted that many regions do not have the means to send an officer to the DRE training due to scheduling issues. To continue increasing the number of DRE-trained officers, WisDOT will offer a training grant to offset the course costs for agencies and an additional DRE School in 2023. They hope to offer additional training opportunities through involvement with the Traffic Safety Commission.