In less than 24 hours last week, Lodi police officers arrested four people driving under the influence of a controlled substance, which they say is not only extremely rare but indicative of a possible increase in prescription drug use.
According to Lt. Tod Patterson of the Lodi Police Department, between late Wednesday afternoon on Jan. 18 and late Friday evening on Jan. 20, four people were arrested were driving under the influence of drugs. And while the police have certainly arrested people for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, Patterson said he could not remember the last time there was such a slew of arrests relating to people driving while completely inhibited by drug usage.
The first arrest, Patterson said, was in relation to an accident that occurred late Wednesday in which Wendell Lindsey, 31, was arrested for possibly driving while under the influence of drugs after he crashed his white Mazda SUV into a light pole on Cherokee Lane, critically injuring two people.
The second and third arrests happened within a matter of hours after Lindsey's arrest, Patterson said. Ronald Pimentel, 35, was arrested for driving under the influence of prescription medication and reportedly admitted to officers that he had taken several more pills than the prescription bottle suggested or recommended.
According to Patterson, Pimentel's erractic driving early Thursday morning had been reported by several people, and at one point Pimentel had even fallen asleep at the wheel while waiting for lights to turn green, police said.. Pimentel had also stopped in the middle of the road, Patterson added.
That same morning, police also arrested 19-year-old Carina Beall, who exhibited similar erractic driving tendencies and who was also under the influence of prescription medication, according to police.
Patterson said a fourth individual was arrested late Friday night, and that once again, the individual was driving under the influence of prescription medication.
And while impaired drivers are a danger to themselves and others, both on and off the road, Patterson said state law only requires the police department to keep intoxicated individuals for four to six hours to allow them to sober up before giving them a citation and releasing them.
Driving while intoxicated is considered a misdemeanor according to the California Vehicle Code.
"When they leave, they sometimes don't even remember what happened," Patterson said. "And because they are just being issued a citation, they do not comprehend that what they have been arrested is a serious offense. They just see it as they have a court date and they have to be at that."
But why the sudden surge in prescription drug use?
Patterson is not entirely sure, but he has his theories. His greatest concern is that because prescription drugs seem to have become more readily available that more drivers who abuse medication will become a greater danger on the road, which could lead to accidents and injuries.
Prescription drugs are also gateways to drugs like heroin, which is cheaper than opiate drugs, Patterson said. Therefore, more people are using more heavy-duty drugs that are less pricey but could still have a similar "high."
Patterson said while the police department is currently investigating the sudden surge in prescription drug usage, he said the best way to avoid any danger would be to heed directions on prescription pill bottles.
"(The warning labels and directions) are there for a reason," he said.
Anyone with information regarding drivers who are possibly under the influence of alcohol or drugs is urged to call the Lodi Police Department at 209-333-6727 or Lodi Area Crime Stoppers at 209-333-6771.
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.