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While Alabama lawmakers were in special session this past week, their agenda was set to address only one issue – redistricting. Other important legislation had to wait until the next regular session in February of 2024.
But it is not too early to discuss what legislators should consider next year. Considering the increasing number of drug-impaired drivers causing traffic wrecks with serious injuries and fatalities on our state roads, the safety on Alabama state roads and highways should be a top priority.
Tragically, a third of all Alabama traffic fatalities are from impaired drivers. And it is not just alcohol; as the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences has reported, since 2019 marijuana has surpassed alcohol as the substance found in the majority of impaired drivers.
And with legislators recently legalizing the use of marijuana for some medical conditions there will be more users of the drug on the roads. Whether it is marijuana or alcohol, there are too many dangerous drivers on our public roads. There should be legislation that is debated and passed to address the increase in drug-impaired driving to protect the innocent motoring public.
At least 10 states have led the way in addressing the increasing number of marijuana-impaired drivers on the public roadways by passing a zero tolerance “per se” law that prohibits a driver operating a motor vehicle with any detectable amount of THC in their system. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Some of those states include Georgia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Delaware, and Rhode Island. Other states, including Illinois and Colorado, have put legal limits of THC in the blood much like alcohol-related DUI provisions.
Over the years, the state has taken steps to make it harder for those under the influence of alcohol to get behind a wheel and drive.
Alabama lawmakers should now be proactive in giving law enforcement and prosecutors the tools they need to keep drug-impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel and thereby enhance public safety for state citizens.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives and former chair of the House Judiciary Committee. He can be found on Twitter at @Paul_DeMarco.