banner of Priorities and Strategies for Improving the Investigation, Use of Toxicology Results, and Prosecution of Drug-Impaired Driving Cases

Issue # 3:  What resources currently exist to promote informed and effective DUID prosecution, and how can they be used more effectively?

1. Research and publications:

There are increasing numbers of reports, summaries, and publications that deal with the issue of drug-impaired driving. A current list of resources needs to be updated and maintained on a public access Web site, by an organization or entity representing the input of all the stakeholder groups represented on this panel.

One of the major limitations identified by this panel was the inadequate access to the tremendous resource of online journals and publications. While abstracts can be searched by anyone with Internet access for no cost at the National Library of Medicine’s Web site (Entrez PubMed; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi), the articles themselves are generally inaccessible to organizations without a university affiliation, or were prohibitively priced. Open access to scientific publications, particularly those that have been generated based on public funding, is a contentious topic among academics and publishers. DUID is a prime example of an area that would benefit tremendously from open access. The National Institutes of Health increasingly require recipients of Federal grant funds to ensure that their publications become available free online, after a defined period of time.12

Accordingly this panel recommends that:

  • Scientific publishers should be encouraged to develop reasonably priced plans giving online access to published scientific work. Other agencies within the Federal Government should also support open access to published research conducted using Federal grant money.
  • Organizations such as the National Safety Council’s Committee on Alcohol and Other Drugs (COAD), or the SOFT/AAFS drugs and driving committee should pursue licensing or distribution rights to priority publications concerning DUID for posting on a public access DUID Web site.
  • An organization with a stake in the ready availability of this information should assume responsibility for creating and maintaining a public access DUID Web site. Similarly a list serve should be created to establish an online community of experts to answer questions on emergent or resource issues.

2. Training

Available time and funding for training was consistently identified as lacking for DRE officers, prosecutors, toxicologists, and judges. This inevitably comes down to money, which is in short supply in this field. Several options for enhancing training were identified using existing resources.

The resources that are currently available are not being shared effectively. One of the consistent observations that emerged from discussions at this forum was that there was no single point of contact for information about regional, local, or national training. In addition, there is also no Web site that collates readily accessible links to, or electronic copies of, the most useful and reliable documents. Copyright laws and high prices prevent the ready sharing of the most current and relevant information.

Accordingly, this panel recommends that:

  • A professional organization or government agency should take the lead and establish and maintain a resource Web site to promote sharing of this material.
  • Locally, organizations and professionals with a stake in DUID issues should take the initiative to share their expertise. Greater communication between groups enlarges the local pool of resources. Most organizations will gladly participate in joint training if asked, and some have curricula already developed. Many also have local resource material that can be shared electronically. Training should be multidisciplinary, and the respective roles of the law enforcement officer, DRE, and toxicologist should be worked out with the prosecutors’ offices. Improving communication will improve the effectiveness with which existing resources are used.
  • State traffic safety programs such as the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety or its equivalent, should be approached about supporting training for individuals or groups, both to provide local training and to send people to national training events. These offices have access to Federal highway safety funds that do support training among other activities.
  • Professional organizations such as American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Society of Forensic Toxicologists, American Prosecutors Research Institute, National Association of Prosecutor Coordinators, and the National Safety Council, Committee on Alcohol and Other Drugs (NSC-COAD), need to continue their efforts to promote drug-impaired driving awareness. Attendees at these meetings should share the information they obtain with their peers.
  • Toxicologists and prosecutors should attend portions of the DRE training, and participate in that to the greatest extent possible. DREs and toxicologists should be invited to prosecutor trainings to clarify their roles. A better understanding by prosecutors of the roles and the limitations of these two groups will allow them to be more effective in their use of witnesses at trial.

ruleline

http://publicaccess.nih.gov

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