North Alabama Senator sponsors bill targeting drugged drivers

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DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) – Traffic in Decatur moves at a normal pace with no problems.  But drivers usually can’t tell if they’re sharing the road with someone who’s impaired until it’s too late.

“They’re taking your life and my life into their own hands,” said State Senator Arthur Orr of Decatur. He sponsored Senate Bill 162, which targets drivers who are under the influence of drugs.

Orr wants something set up similar to the blood alcohol level of .08 that helps law enforcement determine who is too intoxicated to drive.

“The technology is there for a quick swab to give the drug content in somebody,” said Orr.

“That’s better, I think, than what they have now, which is nothing,” said Huntsville defense attorney Russell Crumbley. He is interested in the bill, but has some concerns which come up when he defends people charged with driving drunk.

“The issue I have, I guess, is an amount of alcohol, whatever amount that is, is going to affect each individual differently,” said Crumbley.  And the area of prescription drugs could be particularly vague.  “The question that gets asked is ‘do you take any medication?’ And a person will say ‘yes’ if they are prescribed something and they may not have taken anything in the last 18 hours, but that question doesn’t get asked.

“Right now, the standard is they have to appear to the arresting officer that they are impaired and unable to operate a motor vehicle,” said Orr.  “This would put standards in the law that gives a presumption that the person is impaired and unable to operate a vehicle.”

Orr said the bill has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  He expects it to be considered by the entire Senate in early April.