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Cold medicine DUII? Oregon proposal gains favor

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Feb 05 2013 08:56:18 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 06 2013 01:38:07 AM CST

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent spoke with officials at Bend Police Department about the possibility of an expanded DUII law.

BEND, Ore. -

 Oregon House Bill 2115 would expand the definition of "intoxicants," under state law. Right now, only alcohol, controlled substances and inhalants could land you a DUII, but soon that could be any kind of drug that noticeably affects someone's physical or mental ability to drive.

"We've actually had DUIIs dismissed, people that were very impaired, just based on the fact that they were under the influence of a drug that does not qualify as a controlled substance in Oregon," Bend police Officer Don Barber, a drug recognition expert, said Tuesday.

Barber said he hopes the bill becomes law, so police would be able to cast a bigger net for DUIIs that endanger themselves and others.

Barber said there are plenty of people right here in Central Oregon who drive impaired by prescription and over-the-counter drugs every day -- and in his eight years with Bend police, he said the number is growing.

He told NewsChannel 21 about 70 percent of the department's DUII arrests are alcohol related, but the other 30 percent involve other drugs -- and not all of them are controlled substances.

"They take them in excess, and they get out on the road with my family and your family, my kids, and they're not safe to be driving a vehicle at that time," Barber said.

Barber said  people impaired with uncontrolled substances like Ambien or cold medications right now can only get charged with reckless driving -- a charge that he said doesn't fit the crime.

He said the legislation "will improve the ability of law enforcement to arrest someone for the actual crime of what they're doing."

Barber said he hopes the law will result in more DUIIs here in Bend. But even more, he hopes it will educate people think twice before taking medication and driving.

"If this House bill does anything, maybe it will bring some more awareness," he said. "Because we have DUII crashes every week that affect people. When you pull that bottle of Robitussin, read the directions, they have warnings and things, so pay attention."

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