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Parents Push Mandatory Driver Testing Law

Parents Push Mandatory Driver Testing Law

The parents of a teen tragically killed in a semi-truck crash last summer are pushing for a change to Arizona traffic law that would require testing for drugs and alcohol after any crash involving an injury or death. Currently, such testing is not mandatory in the state and happens at the discretion of officers on the scene.

The parents are hoping that the change, which they’ve christened “Joe’s Law” in honor of their late son, will bring more accountability and more appropriate punishment to drivers who cause crashes while under the influence.


Two Died in Interstate 10 Crash

Joseph Smith, age eighteen, was a passenger in a car with three friends returning from a trip to California on June 17. Their vehicle and others had “slowed to a near standstill” to avoid debris on the road from a minor crash on Interstate 10 about ten miles east of Quartzsite that had happened about forty minutes earlier. As they were crawling in traffic, a semi-truck came upon the delay and failed to slow down.

One alert driver saw the speeding truck and managed to turn onto the shoulder just in time, but others were not so lucky. The truck first smashed into a pickup, killing its driver and permanently paralyzing his wife. The truck then rear-ended the car Smith and his friends were in, shoving it into a flatbed trailer ahead of them. Smith was killed in the collision and the driver of the car was injured. The car was mangled so severely that it took an hour and a half to free the occupants.


No Charges Filed

Despite the severity of the crash and the two fatalities, no criminal charges were filed against the truck driver. The driver appeared to have been following commercial trucking rest-time regulations, and his phone records, which seem to have been only partially accessed by authorities and may have been inconclusive, did not show any record of calls or location data.

Yet his truck left a skidmark eighty-seven feet long at the crash site, and a trooper on the scene described the driver as “lethargic and tired.” The trooper apparently did not feel there was sufficient suspicion of the driver being under the influence and did not attempt to test him for drugs or alcohol, which is actually fully in line with current Arizona law. The La Paz County Attorney had intended to charge the truck driver with negligent manslaughter but came to believe that there was not enough evidence to prove the charge.


A Small Change, a Big Difference

“Joe’s Law” would make a simple change to existing law. If enacted, officers would no longer have the option to request that any driver suspected of causing a death or injury in a car crash submit to an alcohol or drug test only when they have a reasonable suspicion that the driver is under the influence. Instead, those drivers would now be required to submit to such a test.

Arizona drivers already give their implied consent to such tests as a condition of operating a motor vehicle in the state, and refusing to submit results is an automatic license suspension. This change to the law would ensure that these tests are conducted in all cases: The burden of requiring “reasonable” suspicion would be lifted from law enforcement personnel.


Phoenix 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyer

When you or someone close to you has been harmed in a car or truck crash, it’s critical that you find the right attorney to pursue your case as you seek restitution from the responsible parties. The Injury Law Group has experience with Arizona truck accident law, and we offer a free consultation to all clients to discuss the details of their case and explain how we can help. Call us at 602-456-4166 or contact us online through the form below to schedule an appointment today.