Impaired drivers are all a danger

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board February 20, 2013 09:09 am

So who’s the bigger road hazard, the driver who just guzzled a six-pack of beer, or the driver who’s high on legal, synthetic “bath salts?”

The answer, of course, is neither.

Or, rather, both.

Oregon’s goal should be to keep all intoxicated people from driving; the substance that causes the intoxication isn’t relevant.

Except it is, under current state law.

Oregon is one of five states that limits the substances that can be considered in a case when a driver is suspected of driving while intoxicated.

House Bill 2115, which the Legislature is considering this session, would broaden the current definitions, which include alcohol, controlled substances and inhalants, to include any drug, including prescriptions, “that adversely affects a person’s physical or mental faculties to a noticeable or perceptible degree.”

We urge lawmakers to pass the bill, and to join the 45 states which recognize that a variety of substances can render a person unfit to drive a motor vehicle.

Critics contend the bill is too broadly written.

But the legislation does allow drivers accused of being intoxicated to claim, as a defense, that they properly used a medication and that it caused a reaction that “could not reasonably be contemplated.”

The bottom line for us is that when an impaired driver veers across the dotted line and collides with another car, it’s of no consequence whether the driver at fault was drunk, or groggy from cold medicine.

The purpose of the law should be to discourage people in either condition from getting behind the wheel.