The Des Moines Register, Friday, March 13, 1998, Page 4M

Senate OKs bill targeting drug-using motorists

    Drug users who get behind the wheel of an automobile would face an increased risk of criminal prosecution under a bill approved Thursday in the Iowa Senate.
    Lawmakers voted without dissent to extend provisions of Iowa's drunken-driving law to users of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and other heavy drugs.   The effect, supporters say, is that prosecutors will have an easier time charging drug-impaired drivers whose blood-alcohol content measures below the 0.10 threshold for drunken driving in Iowa.
    "We have drivers out there who are high on drugs and who are a danger to the public," said Sen. Larry McKibben, R-Marshalltown, who managed the bill in Senate debate.  The bill, he said, would close a loophole that often allows drugged drivers to escape punishment.
    McKibben said it's possible but very difficult to prosecute a drug-impaired driver under Iowa's current operating-while-intoxicated law.  Because the statute sets no legal threshold for non-alcohol drugs, prosecutors now face the problem of proving impairment without an objective standard on which to rely.
    The Senate-approved bill would change that by outlawing any detectable levels of what are known as Schedule I and Schedule II drugs - those that state and federal laws already identify as the most likely candidates for abuse.
    If approved by the House and signed by the governor, Iowa would become just the seventh state to adopt the strategy for dealing with the death and destruction caused by drug-impaired drivers.
    Iowa Department of Public Safety statistics show 34 percent of blood tests on fatally injured drivers found drugs other than alcohol.
    Among other problems with current law, McKibben said, is that a drug-irnpaired driver can refuse a sobriety test without fear of penalty.  That differs from alcohol-impaired drivers, for whom the act of driving implies consent to a sobriety test.
    The Senate bill would close that loophole, he said.

Reporter Thomas, A. Fogarty can be
reached at
or (515) 286-2533.

The Des Moines Register
Friday, March 13, 1998, Page 4M