Does proposal to crack down on drugs behind the wheel go too far - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Does proposal to crack down on drugs behind the wheel go too far?

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Most legislators agree the state's drugged driving laws need a rewrite. It's significantly easier for law enforcement to convict a drunk driver than those using other drugs.

"The reason we're here discussing it is because more and more people are operating vehicles and they may or may not be under the influence of certain drugs," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington County.

The question is where to draw the line? Years of case law and revision make the drunk driving law quite clear. If you blow a 0.08 or refuse a Breathalyzer test, you're guilty.

"We don't have a similar device in the case of drugs," said Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia County.

Currently prosecutors must prove that drug impairment makes a driver incapable of driving safely to convict them. Drug tests now can prove you're under the influence, but not how safely you can drive.

A proposal passed by the House would only require that officers prove the driver has an active form of the drug in their system.

"I still remain really uncomfortable with somebody who takes one hit off a joint and is automatically roped into this," said Benning.

A majority of senators on the Judiciary Committee say the language casts too wide a net. They instead suggest requiring evidence that drug use affected safe operation of the vehicle to the slightest degree.

"Maybe it's a baby step but I think it advances the idea of getting impaired drivers off the highways," said Sears.

And legislators say that may need to suffice, until scientists create tools to better determine levels of drug intoxication and resulting impairment.

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