Impaired Driving- Reality Check; An Interview with Deputy Brenda Yaeger

Just in time for the holidays and Impaired Driving month I was able to catch up with Deputy Brenda Yaeger at the Tioga County Sheriff’s Office. She was getting ready to start a night shift and took some time to speak with me about the reality and impact of impaired driving.

Deputy Yaeger is the right person to speak to as she has completed rigorous training to become a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) and has made many arrests in 2022 for DWI and impaired driving.

“Impaired driving is real,” says Deputy Yaeger, “All the time I hear people say I only had a couple, I am fine to drive.” She goes on to explain that most drivers are pulled over for vehicle and traffic violations or the operator is driving erratically, and are later found to be impaired. 

Question: What happens when someone is pulled over? When someone is stopped, and impairment is suspected, the officer will conduct Standard Field Sobriety Testing with the operator in order to evaluate the level of impairment. If it is determined that the operator is impaired the Officer will determine if the operator’s apparent impairment is consistent with the subject’s BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration). If the operator’s BAC is not consistent with the level of impairment, then a DRE is called to complete an evaluation to identify which drug a person is impaired by or which category or categories of drugs are producing the impairment. 

Question: Why did you invest the time and energy into becoming a Drug Recognition Expert? I have always been passionate about DWI arrests. I have been to numerous accident scenes where people are seriously injured or deceased. Having to make notifications to family members of those who died as a result of these motor vehicle accidents is preventable. There are scenarios where the impairment is not just alcohol and I wanted to extend my training and knowledge in detecting drug impairment.  

Question: What are you seeing- what are the current trends in impaired driving? Cannabis use and driving is becoming a more frequent issue. People think they can be a designated driver and still consume cannabis as long as they are not drinking, that is a myth. Any consumption of cannabis products prior to operating a motor vehicle is impaired driving for the driver. Even if passengers are consuming cannabis in a vehicle they can be cited with an open container violation, the same as alcohol. A person can be impaired from cannabis for up to 24 hours without knowing they are affected. There has also been a spike with prescription drug medication impaired driving with the notion – I was prescribed this medication, therefore I am able to consume and drive. Impaired driving has been on the rise since the pandemic, now that establishments are open and more people are on the roadways. 

Question: How would you reply or what would you want people to know who may believe the misconception that cops are ‘out to get them’ and ‘it’s all about making money on tickets?’ Law Enforcement Officers are here to protect and serve the community and that includes making the roadways safe for everyone. Deputy Yaeger also drives this point home by adding, “My friends and family are out here too – driving on these roads – and so are yours”. 

Question: What message do you want people to take away from reading this?  Impairment is not only caused by alcohol. It is a common belief that if you aren’t drinking then you can drive after using substances. The definition of a drug is, “Any substance that, when taken into the human body, can impair the ability of the person to operate a vehicle safely.” If you are going to consume anything, be smart and prepare ahead of time as making the decision while you are impaired can be life altering or have a tragic impact on someone’s life. Have a plan.  

Question: Any final words? I will continue to protect and serve the community while making the roadways safe for all by deterring impaired driving. 

(Tioga Advocacy, Support, And Prevention Coalition would like to thank Deputy Yaeger and the Tioga County Sheriff’s Department for this opportunity.)

1 Comment on "Impaired Driving- Reality Check; An Interview with Deputy Brenda Yaeger"

  1. Very good interview and knowledgable officer. TY..

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