Archive for Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Clearing up ‘Amanda’s Law’ facts

February 13, 2008

Regarding the letter from State Rep. Marti Crow and other myths surrounding Amanda's Law HB-2617, a few facts need to be cleared up.

Amanda's Law (named after Amanda Bixby who was killed Feb. 14, 2007) calls for implied consent for drug testing following a serious or fatality accident. The people of Kansas should have a reasonable expectation of protection from people using illegal drugs.

Myth No. 1: The recreational drug user would like for you to believe that the few joints they smoke on the weekend don't hurt anyone. Fact: Smack, pot, crack and the like are illegal in Kansas. The amount in the bloodstream can later be determined as to whether it was a determining factor in an injury or fatality accident by a prosecuting attorney.

Myth No. 2: The man Crow referred to was injured when something fell off of a truck and he hit it, causing his injury and death. She stated that "you would not want that man drug tested, would you?" The fact is he could have been drug tested twice! The first time occurred in the hospital. No hospital would treat a severely injured patient without finding out what substances are in his blood which might react with other medications. A patient reacting strangely might have a head injury or been high on crack. In these days of malpractice suits, medical professionals cannot afford to gamble with the unknown. If an autopsy was performed, he would have been tested again. An autopsy can show us many things; was a seat belt worn, blood alcohol level, if they were driving and drug levels. You simply can't get tough answers if you don't ask tough questions.

In a six-month study by the Walsh Group, performed for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, all motor vehicle crash victims admitted to a hospital emergency room were drug tested and the results were made known anonymously. Toxicology reports indicate that 59.3 percent of the crash victims tested positive for either commonly abused drugs or alcohol. Only 45 percent of those victims tested positive for drugs would have been detected by standard roadside sobriety tests.

Myth No. 3: All people in a car would be drug tested. The fact is only the driver would be required to be drug tested unless it could not be determined who was driving at the scene. When illegal drugs are present, often times people lie to officers about who was driving. Current law requires that drug testing be done within two hours of an accident. Forensic evidence such as skin abrasions or DNA testing can be used to determine who was actually driving. That evidence often takes weeks to process. Once it is determined who was driving, it is too late to go back and collect the much-needed blood sample. Those found not operating the vehicle but under the influence would not even be charged under HB-2617. Evidence collection is critical if justice is going to be done.

Alcohol is a drug and we test for it at crash scenes. Times have changed, and so has the drug or drugs of choice. The Kansas Highway Patrol and Johnson County currently perform this testing at crash scenes. It is time to apply the law equally in all parts of the state. Don't DRUG and drive!

Dennis Bixby, Tonganoxie, is the father of Amanda Bixby and is leading the effort to get Amanda's Law on the books in Kansas.

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