PennDOT Event Promotes Awareness of Distracted & Impaired Driving
This Friday, August 23, from 10am-2pm, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), Highway Safety Network, and other highway safety organizations, will hold a public safety event at the Interstate 80 Welcome Center in Delaware Water Gap Borough, Monroe County.
The event will feature information booths centered on highway safety topics, including impaired/distracted driving, occupant protection, child passenger safety, bicycle/pedestrian travel, and mature driving.
Included in the program will be the department’s distracted and impaired driver simulator. The arcade-like simulator is designed to put its driver through a virtual road course while bombarding them with fake calls and texts. The impaired driving course alters the setting to remove nearly all control the driver has over the steering wheel.
Retired Pennsylvania State Trooper Craig Amos has participated in past safety events around the state. Amos is a drug recognition expert who trains officers to recognize the signs of an impaired driver.
Amos said drug recognition experts will be called on scene by patrol officers if they believe someone is driving under the influence of a substance – like marijuana – that can’t be detected by a breathalyzer.
He said a drug recognition expert will typically spend about 45 minutes to an hour with a potentially impaired driver. By then, Amos said the expert should have a handle on whether the driver is impaired, and be able to articulate results in a courtroom, if necessary.
Amos said the state has about 190 drug recognition experts currently, but hopes to see that number grow to more than 400.
“We have to find those impaired drivers and get them off the highway,” he said.
While their goal is to get impaired drivers off the roadways, they are also working to educate folks on the dangers of driving on marijuana, even if prescribed by a doctor.
“People think it’s OK (to drive under the influence of marijuana) because they have a prescription,” Amos said. “My concern is for people trying to obey the law, but may be misinterpreting what the law says.”
Amos said it’s important for people to note that alcohol is far more voluminous than most drugs, meaning greater quantities of alcohol must be consumed before one becomes impaired.
“I can take a shot of grain alcohol and might have a hurt tummy and a burned esophagus, but I won’t be drunk,” he said. “But if you fill that same shot glass up with LSD, you’ll blow the mind of every man, woman and child in the county.”
The PennDOT event, co-sponsored by the Regional Highway Safety Network, is also intended to spread awareness for work zone safety.
A PennDOT workers’ memorial, a tribute to the 89 PennDOT workers killed on the job since 1970, will be on display as well. It is a stark reminder to take every precaution out on the roads, especially in construction zones.
A monument to each PennDOT worker killed in the line of duty. On display is the helmet and safety vest each wore, along with the date of their death.
The event is free and does not require registration.