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Arrests Climb For Drug-Impaired Driving

Arrests for driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol are increasing, largely because of a Washington State Patrol crackdown.

In King County alone, troopers have made 105 arrests this year for drug-impaired driving, compared with 30 for all of last year. Statewide, there are about 45,000 drunken driving arrests and 1,500 for drug-impaired driving each year.

Most of the non-alcohol DUI cases involve illegal drugs, but about 5 percent to 10 percent are for prescription or over-the-counter medication, state toxicologist Barry Logan said.

Sedating antihistamines in allergy medication, cough syrup containing alcohol, painkillers and tranquilizers like valium are among the drugs that can affect driving, either in excessive doses or when taken with alcohol, Logan said.

Lacking standards for drug impairment like the blood-alcohol levels used in cases of suspected drunken driving, troopers look for signs that a driver is under the influence.

A three-month training program to help troopers recognize the signs was started about a year and a half ago. By 1999 patrol officials hope to have 80 troopers qualified as drug evaluation experts.

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