Troopers learning to draw blood sample of possible DUI drivers

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OGDEN - Some Utah Highway Patrol troopers are becoming medically certified to draw blood from motorists they suspect of driving while intoxicated.

Blood tests are necessary because portable breath tests only detect alcohol - not drugs or other possible intoxicants, said Sgt. Lee Perry, of the Weber County Office of the Highway Patrol.

Without the medical certification, troopers now must either take a suspect to a hospital or call in a certified technician to stick a needle in the suspect's arm and take a sample. Every time a trooper does that, it costs the Highway Patrol $50 or $60.

Perry said that costs about $25,000 per year.

Eventually, about 65 troopers will be trained statewide in the medical procedures needed to draw blood.

A Federal Highway Safety Administration grant provided the funds to hire the Utah School of Phlebotomy to teach troopers how to draw blood.

Beth Anderson, president of the school, said the compressed four-session course certifies the troopers as phlebotomists, legally and medically able to safely take a blood sample.

The course teaches troopers how to get used to the idea of sticking someone with a needle, which isn't always that easy, she said.

''The thing is, you've got to get over that mental state of going in through some guy's skin,'' she said. ''Then you hold [the vein] so it doesn't roll, and you're in there.''

Instruction also includes patient care, confidentiality, and what to watch for if the subject is about to collapse at the idea of being stuck with a needle.

The troopers actually poke each other with the needles for practice in the classes - eight sticks per trooper at each of the four sessions.

By the end, the dozen troopers in an early first class sported arms flecked with bruises and needle marks.

The certified troopers will not receive any extra pay for taking the classes or drawing blood.