ASK THE EXPERT:
QUESTION: How many drugs does it take to be legally impaired behind the wheel? And how often must someone be arrested for driving under the influence of something, before they have their license taken away? This question arises from a recent fatal car crash that killed the driver and a pedestrian.
Nancy Chancey’s speeding car hit another vehicle, a telephone pole, a wall, and a gate. She was ejected out of the car and killed. She also hit and killed a pedestrian in the course of the accident. She has over 23 traffic tickets (with speeds up to 105 mph) in the past 10 years, three crashes, and at least 3 DUI arrests. She lost her license four times dating back to 1980s.
ANSWER: CALI ESTES, THE ADDICTIONS COACH SAYS:
She was obviously a threat to herself and others based on her history behind the wheel. She was listed as an habitual traffic offender. She had previous accidents where the drugs hydrocodone and muscle relaxers showed up in her system. Despite being arrested for DUIs, two accounts were reduced to reckless driving because they couldn’t prove that the substance in her system was the cause of her impairment. There is no agreement on what level of drugs in the blood impairs driving. If blood alcohol levels are within the legal limit, the charges are less severe. With little or no consequence to the offender, there is no reason to change their behaviors.
We know that behavioral effects of prescription medication vary widely, depending not just on the drug but on the person taking it. Some, like anti-anxiety drugs, can dull alertness and slow reaction time; others, like stimulants, can encourage risk-taking and hurt the ability to judge distances. Mixing prescriptions, or taking them with alcohol or illicit drugs, can exacerbate impairment and sharply increase the risk of crashing.
Brevard County is working on the expansion of a drug recognition expert program that puts police officers on the street with specialized training to detect impairment because of drug use. A police officer certified as a drug recognition expert would be a helpful witness in a drug DUI prosecution.
This is a case of too little too late. Nancy Chancey was already facing charges of a controlled medication drug possession from November, combine this most recent charge with the previous history, and it seems that more should have been done to secure others safety by removing her from the road and getting her the help she desperately needed.