Jersey Shore Congressman introduces bill to close drug testing loophole
Jersey Shore Congressman Chris Smith (R) has introduced legislation to require drug testing for methadone for commercial drivers.
“Despite clear evidence—and existing law—showing that those using the painkiller methadone should not drive or operate heavy machinery, the DOT does not require testing commercial licensed drivers for the drug,” Smith said. “This omission can allow for these vital tests to miss what is a serious impairment for drivers and a threat on our roadways. My legislation would require this testing for methadone, to more effectively prevent threats of deadly car and truck crashes in the name of public safety.”
Heidi's Law is named after Heidi Bennett, a woman who was killed in a car accident on March 31, 2014 in Freehold when a commercial truck driver, operating the truck while on Xanax and methadone, slammed into the back of her car.
“My family and I would like to thank Congressman Chris Smith and his staff for submitting this bill,” Paul Bennett, husband of Heidi Bennett, said. “This bill is being introduced as ‘Heidi’s Law’. My late wife, mother to my two daughters, sister, aunt, friend and nurse to so many people was a special person. She is remembered as a person who always cared and helped everyone. She was killed by someone who was only thinking of himself. This bill would allow her to help and protect so many others—again and always.”
The use of methadone is banned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the DOT for any holders of commercial driver's licenses, because of its side effects.
The HHS, however, does not list methadone on its five-panel drug test as part of its Mandatory Guidelines on drug testing, which is used by the DOT.
The HHS five-panel test currently lists marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates, and Phencyclidine/PCP, and Smith’s bill would require that methadone be added to the “opiate” category.
Once methadone is added to the list, the DOT and transportation companies would have to test for it.
“Heidi’s tragic death could have been prevented had a drug test for methadone been in place to keep the truck driver off the road,” Smith said. “We have to close this loophole make sure our tests are in line with our laws—laws that are designed to save lives, and protect families from tragedies like that of Heidi Bennett.”
Smith’s bill is supported by the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
“MADD commends Rep. Chris Smith for his leadership on the issue of drugged driving and truck safety,” MADD National President Helen Witty said. “We know that drugs are an emerging issue and this legislation seeks to protect our roadways from this danger.”
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