Cracking Down on Drugged Driving

By Steph Machado

Published 02/19 2014 06:27PM

Updated 02/19 2014 06:59PM

MONTPELIER - What Traffic Safety Prosecutor Greg Nagurney says might seem obvious: "I don't think anybody should drive high on meth."

But drivers in Vermont can only be punished for driving under the influence of drugs if the drugs impair their ability to drive. Unlike the well-known .08 Blood Alcohol Content limit, there is no numerical limit for drug DUIs. Nagurney says that makes it tough to prosecute drugged drivers.

"If I'm a defense attorney," he said, giving an example. "Representing my client zealously...I'm able to argue 'well sure, he was under the influence, but he didn't drive badly.'"

A bill in the State Legislature would change the law to say if you have any illegal drugs on its list in your system, you can't get behind the wheel. Police do have the ability to distinguish between active drugs in your bloodstream and metabolized drugs that were taken on a previous day.

Lieutenant John Flannigan says State Police support the bill.

"Some of our fatality data is showing we are seeing more prevalence of drugs in blood in highway deaths," Lt. Flannigan said.

The State Police force has 28 DREs, or Drug Recognition Experts. They are training 9 more by the end of March. But unless this bill passes, prosecutors may still struggle to convict the drivers police arrest.

Greg Nagurney painted a picture for lawmakers. "Driving home on Route 2 tonight," he said. "You're avoiding potholes and there's a double yellow line, people are coming at you at 50 or 55...ask yourself how much cocaine you're comfortable with those people having had just before they hopped in the car. The answer for me is absolutely none."

Copyright 2015 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.