LANSING—Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed into law landmark legislation to help keep drugged drivers off Michigan streets by ensuring immediate jail time for repeat offenders and better communication between law enforcement agencies.
State Sen. Phil Pavlov and Rep. Dan Lauwers introduced the legislation in response to the tragic deaths of Russell Ward and Koby Raymo, both of Avoca, who were killed in a head-on collision with a repeat drugged driver. Members of the Ward and Raymo families attended the bill-signing ceremony, along with St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon and St. Clair County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Wendling.
Public Acts 315 and 316 of 2014 place a conditional bond on drivers who are arrested for operating under the influence of drugs, put the bond into the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN) and require drugged motorists to be given a permit license similar to a drunken driving offense.
“Nothing we do will bring back these two young men, but these new laws can prevent a similar tragedy for other families,” said Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township. “Our hearts go out to the Raymo and Ward families and to all victims of drugged drivers.”
Michigan had the 12th highest rate of drugged drivers in the country from 2006-2009, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“Drugged drivers can destroy lives and profoundly impact families, and that somber fact was never more evident as the Ward and Raymo families watched Governor Snyder sign the reform measures into law,” said Lauwers, R-Brockway Township. “Michigan motorists who make the reckless and irresponsible decision to use illicit drugs and get behind the wheel will now face the same consequences as drunken drivers and be taken off the streets sooner. I’d like these measures to be referred to as the Russell and Koby laws to honor these two young men, whose lives were cut way too short at the hands of a drugged driver.”
On July 20, 2013, Ward and Raymo were killed in a head-on collision in St. Clair County when a pickup driven by Lisa Bergman crossed the center line. Bergman’s blood later tested positive for controlled substances. She had been pulled over six times since 2008 for operating under the influence of drugs, and at the time of the accident she had two pending cases.
Police officers who had previously stopped Bergman didn’t realize she had multiple offenses because they were not in the LEIN system.
“We are grateful and commend Rep. Lauwers and Sen. Pavlov for taking a leadership role on this important legislation,” said Sheriff Donnellon. “Police officers who are working on the front lines every day will greatly appreciate the ability to quickly learn whether a suspected drugged driver has similar offenses. We’re being given additional tools to prevent tragedies in the future, which helps us become even more effective public servants.”
Wendling said: “These new laws are a big step forward in helping law enforcement better protect the public. It is my hope we will continue to work on this issue and incorporate additional tools for our first responders to combat drugged driving as they become available.”