Vidalia officers get advanced training for identifying impaired drivers

Published 12:04 am Monday, June 19, 2017

By Christian Coffman

NATCHEZ — A number of Vidalia police officers received advanced training last week for detecting drivers under the influence.

Vidalia Police Chief Joey Merrill said many of his officers attended Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) training recently. The three-day course was offered for the first time for his department.

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“(The classes are) not required by the state, just a tool that officers can use,” Merrill said.

ARIDE was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide officers with knowledge related to drug impairment.

Merrill said he had taken the course previously and said the training ended up becoming a very effective tool.

“You’re able to identify and get more impaired drivers off the street that show no signs of alcoholism but are still impaired,” Merrill said. “You run across several people who are impaired, but not necessarily on alcohol,” Merrill said.

The ARIDE program trains officers to recognize the signs and symptoms of the seven drug categories, and teaches officers to observe, identify and articulate the signs of impairment related to drugs, alcohol or a combination of both.

The course provides information about medical conditions and other situations that can produce similar signs of impairment, along with the use of eye examinations to recognize the possibility of drug impairment and the latest updates in standardized field sobriety testing.

Merrill said law enforcement officers from several surrounding agencies also were invited to attend.

The program is also offered to other criminal justice professionals, including prosecutors, toxicologists and judges.

The training is conducted under the administration and approval of the coordinator for Louisiana’s Drug Recognition Evaluators and Drug  Evaluation and Classification Program.