Local families support bill to increase drug testing on Maryland roads

After a car accident took the lives of three local residents, family members are testifying for legislation they hope will make it easier for police to enforce laws on Maryland roads.

A bill, cross-filed in the House of Delegates and Senate, proposes to lessen the certification a law enforcement officer needs to “request,” “require” or “direct” a driver to be tested for drugs in their system. The bill will have a public hearing in the House on Friday afternoon.


For Katherine Badders, the bill means families will have a better chance of getting answers if their loved ones are involved in accidents.

Her husband, Ray, and daughter, Susannah, both of Manchester, were killed along with Susannah’s boyfriend, Jason Simpkins, of Ellicott City, following a vehicle collision near Annapolis on March 21, 2015. The vehicle that Susannah Badders was driving was at a stop when it was struck by a vehicle driven by Travis Ala. He was found guilty of failure to control speed to avoid a collision and was ordered to pay $525.50, The Capital reported.

Two more people have died following a three-vehicle crash Saturday on Route 50 in Annapolis, the Maryland State Police confirmed Sunday night. Susannah Badders, 19, of Manchester in Carrol County and Jason Simpkins, 19, of Ellicott City in Howard County were pronounced dead Sunday at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

“There was never a question that he was negligent, but nobody had the authority to ascertain whether he was impaired or not,” Katherine Badders said.

She sees the legislation coming before Maryland legislators as a step toward having more information for families and prosecutors following a collision.

“I can’t swear what that would have amounted to [in her family’s situation]. But that evidence was not available to us,” she said.

She added the proposed bill “is going to offer the victims’ families at least the opportunity to gather more evidence. This is for the future.”


Scott Simpkins, father of Jason Simpkins who was a Manchester Valley High School graduate, will testify alongside Badders, and said he played a supporting role as Badders worked with Del. April Rose, R-District 5, and legislative aide Michael Eisenberg on the legislation.

“She’s been tireless,” he said of Badders.

In his son’s case, the law “left unacceptable questions unanswered,” he said. “We think that’s wrong. We’re going to tell the House that.”

He said he speaks on behalf of his son, but the focus is on the families that will be affected in the future.

“The law is complicated,” he said. “I guess you don’t realize that you are underserved by those laws until they don’t serve you.”

Rose, the lead sponsor of the bill, said she hopes it will help strengthen the number of people being tested for impairment.

As Maryland is “dealing with the opioid crisis and people abusing legal pain medication, we have a lot of impaired drivers on the roads,” she said.

“We all want to do what we can to make them as safe as we can for our loved ones.”

Currently, an officer must be a drug recognition expert, or DRE, in order to determine if there is sufficient probable cause of impairment to ask for a blood test, said Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo. If the officer in a traffic stop is not certified as a DRE, one must be called in.

The legislation would bring the law for blood tests more in line with that for breath tests, where any officer can request that a driver take one if there is enough probable cause that the driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

More test results will help prosecutors build stronger cases, DeLeonardo said.

If the driver refuses the test, he said, the penalty is the same as the current penalty for refusing a breath test: suspension of license.

The Maryland legislation regarding DREs dates back to 1990, when the General Assembly passed the state’s Drugged Driver Testing Statute, which permitted only “police officers trained and certified as DREs” to request blood samples from suspected drugged drivers, according to the Maryland DRE program website, www.mddre.maryland.gov.

There are currently 37 agencies with active DREs, 156 DREs, 38 instructors and one student in the Maryland DRE program, according to the website.

“This won’t bring Susannah back to me, but if there’s — God forbid — but if this can help anybody else’s investigation … if this helps at all, then it’s worth it,” Badders said.

If enacted, the law would go into effect Oct. 1.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun