WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Kansas continues to fight against drunk driving to keep roads safe. However, law enforcement is noticing more cases of drugged driving.
The Kansas Highway Patrol is now turning to a new type of technology, which aims to combat impaired driving. AAA recently purchased a DAX device for KHP to use on the highways.
The Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study that showed the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly one-third since 2007 — but also showed a large increase in the number of drivers using marijuana or other drugs.
“Kansas, like every other state in the country, has seen their fatal crashes increase significantly over the past few years,” said Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Adam Hankins. “One of those largest contributors is impaired drivers.”
When law enforcement pulls over a suspected impaired driver, they conduct a field sobriety test.
There are different sobriety tests: the walk-and turn test and the one-leg stand test. The most accurate is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test.
The HGN test is when officers ask the driver to follow their finger left to right, up and down.
According to Hankins, law enforcement can’t testify to the results of the HGN test.
This is where the DAX device comes into play.
“This allows us to accurately record the evidence that we see in the most accurate test that we have, that we can use roadside,” Hankins said.
The DAX device records how the driver’s eyes react and move, depending on what type of drug is in their system. For example, someone under the influence of marijuana, their eyes will dilate. While opioids and heroin causes the eyes to constrict.
By recording the eye movements, it gives law enforcement tangible evidence against a suspected impaired driver.
“This device will allow us to show some people who are influential in that decision-making process of what the officer is seeing and that this is truly legitimate science,” said Hankins.
The state of Kansas has only one DAX device, but Hankins hopes to receive more funding to buy more devices to place all across the state.