Brown County Sheriff's Office looking for ways to combat drugged driving

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BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - The way people "go out" has changed. That's according to the Brown County Tavern League as the county marks a year without a fatal drunk driving crash.

It's a milestone, but officials can't let their guard down. There's another significant safety problem on the roads--drugged drivers.

"There's a lot of people out there that think that smoking marijuana does not impair you when you drive, and it does. It is just as bad as alcohol. It impairs you," says Capt. Dan Sandberg, Brown County Sheriff's Office.

Dan Sandberg is the patrol captain for the Brown County Sheriff's Office. He says the majority of drug-related crashes in the county involve marijuana use. Sandberg also sees crashes involving prescription drugs and cocaine.

In November, Derrick Murphy was killed along Ashland Ave in Aswhabuenon. Prosecutors say the driver, Chad Scott, admitted to smoking marijuana before driving.

A Department of Transportation map shows police responded to nearly 1,700 drug-related crashes in 2019. That's down 31 from 2018.

In Northeast Wisconsin counties, 187 people were injured and nine died in drugged-driving cases.

In Brown County, there were 41 drug-related crashes in 2019. That's down from 51 in 2018.

While alcohol-related crashes still surpass the number of drug-related crashes, Sandberg says deputies are also finding people driving with a combination.

"The state has kind of recognized that from a couple studies they've done down in the Dane County area and now in the Manitowoc County area," says Sandberg. "What they're doing is they're running studies and doing complete drug panels on OWI arrests, and what they're finding out is we actually do have a lot bigger drug problem than we even do realize."

The Dane County study states 70 percent of people with blood alcohol levels 0.10 or higher also tested positive for at least one drug.

Capt. Sandberg says officials are looking for input and ideas to combat drugged driving.

"Numbers are down a little over last couple years, but they're still up there to the point where it still concerns us," says Sandberg.

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