The daughter of a woman who died last year when a driver returning from a methadone clinic crossed the centerline and struck her car called for changes in Maine law that would keep impaired drivers off the road.
A Penobscot County prosecutor and Bangor defense attorney echoed her concerns.
The Rev. Brooke Gardner of LaGrange told reporters outside the Penobscot Judicial Center Tuesday — after the man responsible for her mother’s death was sentenced — that her family wanted to prevent other families from experiencing the grief and loss they have over the past year.
Robin Gardner, 63, of LaGrange died Nov. 24 when Tyler Creighton, 25, of Medford crossed the centerline on Route 16 in Alton and struck her vehicle, according to previously published reports. Creighton was returning from a Bangor methadone clinic when the crash happened.
Creighton was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison with all but seven years suspended after pleading guilty to manslaughter, operating under the influence of intoxicants and other charges.
In addition to methadone, Creighton had an antidepressant, marijuana and codeine in his system, the prosecutor told the judge.
“We’d like to see some the laws changed in our state, particularly relating to the methadone clinics,” Brooke Gardner, pastor of New Life Church and Cafe in Old Town said. “People get on the road with a drug cocktail in their systems. That is a public safety hazard for our state and our community. This could have happened to anybody’s family.”
The minister said the family need to continue healing from Robin Gardner’s death, and the death of her only son, Alexander Gardner, 35, of La Grange a week later, before they will be able to come up a specific proposal to present to lawmakers.
Marianne Lynch, assistant district attorney for Penobscot County said after Creighton’s sentencing that the case demonstrated “the devastating consequences the opioid epidemic and impaired driving is having on Maine communities.
“It’s really destroying our communities one family at a time,” Lynch, who is running for district attorney, said.
She also said that while people seem to understand that two drinks can lead to a blood alcohol level higher than .08 percent, it is far less clear on the amount of drugs in a driver’s system cause impairment. There also is no breath test for drugs as there are for alcohol.
Lynch told reporters that her office prosecuted four years ago two similar manslaughter cases that involved drivers impaired after visiting one of Bangor’s methadone clinics.
Creighton’s attorney David Bate said that his client was never tested by the clinic to determine if his dose was too high.
“If you’re being sent out on the road without know if you are impaired, I think that is unreasonably dangerous,” he said. “My understanding is that the message from the methadone clinic is that if you are at a therapeutic dose then you are not impaired to drive, and I question that.”
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