It's no secret that the growing heroin epidemic is reaching new heights. In addition to responding to overdose calls, police are now responding to drivers who are under the influence of drugs.
"It's really getting out of control," said Erie County Sheriff's Deputy Simon Biegasiewicz.
Biegasiewicz is what's called a Drug Recognition Expert. In addition to his duties as a deputy, Biegasiewicz responds to accident scenes where drugs may have been a factor. He assesses how impaired drivers are at the time of the crash.
"It's scary (for the drivers) when you're doing absolutely nothing wrong and someone who is driving in a condition where they shouldn't be gets in a horrific accident," he said.
With the heroin and opioid addiction on the rise in Western New York, there's a growing need for these trained police experts.
"You get these innocent people who are coming home from the grocery store, and they get hit by someone who's probably more impaired than if they were drinking and driving," Biegasiewicz said. "Sometimes we go to these accident scenes and the person is so impaired, they can't even stay awake. They're sleeping standing up."
In 2015, the Erie County Sheriff's Drug Recognition Experts were called to 135 calls. Deputy Simon Biegasiewicz says those numbers are skyrocketing.
"On a monthly basis, I'm doing somewhere between five and 10n evaluations," he said. "It tends to go with the weather a bit. When it's nicer, there are more, but heroin and opioids are the most common."
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