For a tight-knit community in Phoenix, Arizona, the answer is yes. So much so that friends and neighbors have marched outside the state capitol, submitted over 4,000 petition signatures, and implored their local congressmen to support what has become known as “Joe’s Law” in honor of the young man who lost his life just weeks after graduating Horizon High School.
The story behind Joe’s Law began in the early hours of June 17, 2016. A minor accident on Interstate 10 near the town of Quartzsite, Arizona had traffic backing up as cars stopped to avoid the debris that blocked the way. Yet, even with the darkness giving a boost to their glaring red glow, a semi-truck driver failed to see the surge of brake lights ahead and ran straight into the two rear-most cars—killing the 74-year-old driver of one and the 18-year-old passenger of the other vehicle.
In honor of their son’s memory, Steve and Tana Smith have worked hard to introduce a bill that would change state legislation, making drug and alcohol testing mandatory for drivers involved in serious crashes. Known as SB1054, it unanimously passed the Arizona Senate judiciary committee on January 26th, but still needs to pass the Senate rules committee before it moves to the House of Representatives.
Much of what is driving the Smiths in this pursuit is a need to understand how and why this happened to their son, as well as to prevent such a tragedy from affecting other families. Tana Smith commented on Facebook, “…‘Joe’s Law’ would help ensure that families who endure a tragedy like ours won’t have the added stress of forever wondering and never knowing if there were more factors that caused the crash.”
The grieving parents also point out that, while the responding state trooper tested the other boys in the car with Joe for alcohol or drug use, he did not test the truck driver—even though the officer noted in his report that the man seemed lethargic and tired. Joe’s parents feel that the lack of alertness and resulting deaths should have been enough to warrant testing of the driver, and they aim to change the laws and make it a requirement in such circumstances.
“I assumed that that’s what the law was, and since it’s not, it needs to change,” Tana told The Arizona Republic. “I’ll do whatever I can to change this because this is something that could affect anybody at any time.”
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