DRE Training

DRE Training

The DEC Program trains law enforcement officers and other approved public safety officials as DREs through a three-phase training process:

  1. DRE Pre-School (16 hours)
  2. DRE School (56 hours)
  3. DRE Field Certification (Approximately 40-60 hrs)

The training relies heavily on Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs), which provide the foundation for the DEC Program. Once trained and certified, DREs become highly effective officers skilled in the detection and identification of persons impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. DREs are trained to conduct a systematic and standardized 12-step evaluation consisting of physical, mental and medical components.

Because of the complexity and technical aspects of the DRE training, not all law enforcement officers may be suited for the training. Experience has shown that training a well-defined group of officers proficient in impaired driving enforcement works well and can be very effective.

The DRE classroom training is designed to assist the student achieve three broad goals and eight specific learning objectives.


  1. Determine if an individual is under the influence of a drug or drugs other than alcohol, the combined influence of alcohol and other drugs, or suffering from an injury or illness that produces similar signs to alcohol/drug impairment;
  2. Identify the broad category or categories of drugs that would induce the observable signs and symptoms of impairment; and
  3. Progress to the Field Certification Phase of the training.


  1. Be able to describe the involvement of drugs in impaired driving incidents;
  2. Name the seven drug categories and recognize their effects;
  3. Describe and properly administer the psychophysical and physiological evaluations used in the DRE procedures;
  4. Prepare a narrative drug influence evaluation report; and
  5. Discuss appropriate procedures for testifying in typical DRE cases.


Training Calendar

Locate training in your area and find contact information for more information.


The Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) program was developed by NHTSA with input from the IACP TAP and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. ARIDE was created to address the gap in training between the SFST and the DEC Program.

The SFST program trains officers to identify and assess drivers suspected of being under the influence of alcohol while the DEC Program provides more advanced training to evaluate suspected drug impairment. The SFST assessment is typically employed at roadside, while an officer trained as a drug recognition expert (DRE) through the DEC Program conducts a drug evaluation in a more controlled environment such as a detention facility.

ARIDE is intended to bridge the gap between these two programs by providing officers with general knowledge related to drug impairment and promoting the use of DREs in states that have the DEC Program. One of the most significant aspects of ARIDE is its review and required student demonstration of the SFST proficiency requirements. The ARIDE program also stresses the importance of securing the most appropriate biological sample in order to identify substances likely causing impairment.

ARIDE is a 16-hour training course, which in most states is conducted under the control and approval of the DEC Program state coordinator. The principal instructors for the course are state-qualified and IACP-credentialed DRE instructors; specifically, that they (1) hold current and valid certificates as DREs; (2) have completed the NHTSA/IACP DRE Instructor Development Course (IDC); and (3) have completed the required delivery of both classroom and certification training, under the supervision of credentialed DRE instructors.

A qualified SFST instructor can instruct Sessions I-III, leading to the preparation and evaluation of participants during the SFST proficiency examination. In addition to their occupational competencies, all instructors must be qualified trainers. They need to understand, and be able to apply, fundamental principles of instruction. Perhaps most importantly, they need to be competent coaches. Much of the classroom training is devoted to hands-on practice. The quality of coaching will have a major impact on the success of those practice sessions.It is highly recommended that every instructor be a graduate of the IDC.

Some agencies may wish to enlist instructors with special credentials for certain blocks of instruction. For example, a physician would be well qualified to assist or teach Session IV, and a prosecutor might be a good choice for Session VIII.

The training also promotes interaction with representatives from the state’s prosecution community. Part of the course is intended to be taught by a local prosecutor or the state’s traffic safety resource prosecutor (TSRP).

For more information about ARIDE, contact Joe Abrusci, Eastern IACP DEC Program Project Manager; Jim Maisano, Central IACP DEC Program Project Manager; or Robert Hayes, Western IACP DEC Program Project Manager.


The Prosecuting the Drugged Driver is a curriculum developed in cooperation by NHTSA and the National Traffic Law Center. This course is designed to create a team building approach between prosecutors and law enforcement officers to aid in the detection, apprehension, and prosecution of impaired drivers. Prosecutors and law enforcement officers participate in interactive training classes taught by a multidisciplinary faculty.

The course begins with an overview of the drug-impaired driving problem in the U.S. and the substantive areas of training that police officers receive to be certified as a DRE. Learning about drug categories, signs and symptoms of drug influence, the role of the DRE in establishing impairment, and the role of toxicology in these cases will assist the prosecutor in developing methods for effectively and persuasively presenting this information in court. The course also addresses how to qualify the DRE as an expert witness in court and how to respond to common defense challenges.

Each participant has the opportunity to prosecute a mock case including the opportunity to conduct a direct examination of a DRE and a toxicologist. Each phase of the trial is videotaped. Participants receive critiques of the live and videotaped presentations from experienced faculty. Throughout every stage of the course, participants receive direct feedback on their courtroom skills with assistance in how to compose more persuasive arguments and deliver more dynamic presentations.

For more information on this training, contact Joanne Thomka at the National Traffic Law Center: (703) 519-1678.

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