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COMMUNITY VOICE

Legalizing marijuana will just add to the problem of driving impaired

Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 12:01 am

I have to admit, I am not just surprised, but I am astounded by the editorial reactions and apparent support for the legalization of “small amounts” of marijuana.

I know these are “just opinions,” but they reflect a very narrow view of the increased dangers this would bring to the public as a whole.

Many readers take their personal views of such matters as being authority.

Every year for the last several, legislatures across the country — including Indiana’s — have wrestled with the sales of “bath salts,” “spice” and other chemicals sold either under the table or even in plain sight. This has caused considerable havoc with our young persons in both accidents and hospitalizations.

We are annually modifying legislation just to keep up with the new compounds. In addition, we are constantly attempting to control the precursors of the meth epidemic we face.

For nearly my entire career, including 11 years of advocating for 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC) standards for driving while impaired, I have felt the pain, grief and sorrows created by selfish, irresponsible drivers who drank too much and killed or maimed moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.

In Indiana, the law requires a blood draw on any serious bodily injury or death caused on our roads and streets. For those driving while impaired, a significant amount of blood draws will also show drugs are in the offending driver’s body.

And remember, there are tens of thousands of arrests where only the breath test

is used, and this test does not identify any drugs that may be in the offender’s system.

Since the enactment of 0.08 BAC standards, we have seen a significant decrease in highway deaths and injuries. Better enforcement and other conditions have obviously assisted in these lower numbers, but believe me, with many individuals, it made a life change. As we still see, it has not changed everyone’s attitudes, and many continue to drink and drive.

The naysayers will now ask me the question, “Well, then shouldn’t you ban alcohol?”

That question was answered when Prohibition was overturned. But the question should be, “Why legalize another impairment for those who will then drive?”

Impairment is impairment, whether it’s from drugs, alcohol or anything that affects your judgment and coordination. It is dangerous and deadly to get behind the wheel of a car when in that state.

Prosecutors and law enforcement have long tried to stem the number of impaired drivers. Legislation tries to keep ahead. Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards stepped up to the plate by mandating blood draws for those drivers who refuse a breathalyzer test. This is a significant attempt to correct the problem with those alcohol-related offenders.

The shame to all of this is that deaths, serious injuries and destroyed families continue with all of these efforts that have been made over the last 20 years.

What do you think will happen with legalization of another problem?

Tom Wyss is a Republican state senator from Fort Wayne.