Whenever a person dies in a motor vehicle crash in Maine, the police conduct a thorough investigation. But, because of the way the law is written, those investigations often miss a potentially critical piece of evidence: the presence of drugs in the driver’s system.

Currently, police perform a vehicle autopsy and check everything from brake function to tire condition. They track the drivers’ activities leading up to the accident: where they have been and even what have they been eating. Weather, carbon monoxide and road conditions also get recorded. Finally, those involved in the crash must provide blood samples for an alcohol test.

But police have never been required to routinely check drivers for the presence of drugs. As a retired state trooper, this has always bothered me. I’ve long believed we were missing an important part of the puzzle.

Most of you probably thought police already tested for drugs in fatal crashes. But testing isn’t automatic.

In Maine, there are about 180 fatal crashes each year. The people of Maine and the families of those hurt or killed in these incidents deserve to know what happened and why. Those of us who make policy need to know how many drivers on our roads are impaired by drugs so that we can address the challenge of maintaining public safety in the smartest way possible.

In the past, drug tests were expensive and time consuming. Today, tests can be done in-house, quickly and cheaply. In fact, other states have been testing drivers in fatal crashes for years. Now is the time for Maine to catch up.

We check for alcohol already, so let’s just go one step further and check for drugs.

Rep. Tim Marks


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