420 enforcement in Kansas, Missouri will step up patrols for impaired drivers

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Police around the Midwest will be out in full force this holiday weekend, including here in the metro.

It's a first of its kind enforcement, trying to get drug-impaired drivers off the roads.

The stepped-up patrols are being dubbed the "420 enforcement." While the number 420 and date April 20 are often tied to marijuana use, troopers are watching out for all impaired drivers in hopes of preventing crashes and saving lives.

When you're out on the highway, you're bound to see some bad behaviors behind the wheel.

"I think the texting causes the most accidents or just not paying attention," driver Linda Coleman said.

But on Missouri highways, texting isn't the biggest cause of deadly crashes.

"The drugs would surprise me; the alcohol, no, 'cause really with drugs you can't tell when people are on them. But usually someone on alcohol, they're weaving. You can tell there's something wrong with them," Coleman said.

But state troopers said that's not true. Drugged drivers show the very same warning signs as drunk drivers.

"It's the ability. Your fine motor skills are diminished, your ability to cognitively see something ahead of you quick enough and respond. Your body is not going to respond quick enough to be able to stop and avoid a crash," said Sgt. Bill Lowe with the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

On average, 60% of crashes around Missouri involve impaired drivers, and a growing group haven't consumed alcohol but are impaired by illegal or prescription drugs.

Last year, impaired driving crashes killed 78 people and hurt 142 more.

"When somebody is deciding to get behind the wheel, they're absolutely putting others at risk," Lowe said.

There's not a quick test like a breathalyzer to determine if someone's on drugs. But field sobriety tests can still work, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol and several other law enforcement agencies have teams of drug recognition experts, who are trained to identify signs of drug use.

The Kansas Highway Patrol also has the DAX device which records eye movements to detect impairment.

"We're putting the word out that we're going to be out there looking for it. And we're going to be out there making sure drivers are safe," Lowe said.

The 420 enforcement will run this Friday and Saturday, April 19-20, and includes police in six Midwest states: Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. While the primary goal is to stop impaired drivers, officers will also be watching for speeding, seat belt use and any other violations they see.

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