The Herald Bulletin

October 24, 2013

Editorial: Speedway should test drivers for alcohol use


The Herald Bulletin

---- — Anderson Speedway is an important entertainment venue for the community. Most weekends throughout the year, the speedway offers exciting auto racing on its quarter-mile, steeply-banked track.

People come to Anderson specifically to attend races at the speedway, meaning that it brings consumers into the community, which benefits restaurants, convenience stores, gas stations and other retailers.

Unfortunately, the speedway was in the news for another reason this month. On Oct. 12, an Anderson man was arrested after allegedly driving drunk during a race.

Tommy Grant Lathan, 49, was charged with operating while intoxicated, criminal recklessness and intimidation. According to police reports, Lathan was driving erratically during a figure-eight race and was flagged off the track by speedway officials.

About two-thirds of the way into the race, Lathan drove his car from the pit area toward the track. Track officials tried to direct him to the parking area, but Lathan's car entered the track and crashed into another race car.

Neither Lathan nor the other driver, reportedly, were seriously injured. But someone could have been badly hurt — or killed.

Track owner Rick Dawson insists that the speedway has strict policies in place that discourage drug or alcohol influence on drivers. But he acknowledged that "you can't test everyone" and that "people fall through the cracks."

Which begs the question, Why can't track officials test all of the drivers?

A breathalyzer test before the race would net immediate results and help keep an impaired driver from getting on the track and endangering others. A breathalyzer might not detect the presence of some drugs, but it would weed out drivers who have consumed alcohol.

Pre-race breathalyzer tests may not be part of policy for NASCAR and other big sanctioning bodies, but that doesn't mean that such a program couldn't be effective — and important — for various speedways, large and small.

Dawson expressed a willingness for track officials to be more vigilant in the attempt to keep unfit drivers off the track. That could be a step in the right direction. Or it could merely be saying what people expect to hear.

For the confidence of the community, the drivers and the fans, speedway track officials should create and publicize a detailed plan to better assure that an incident like the one that occurred Oct. 12 doesn't happen again.

In summary A breathalyzer test before races would net immediate results and help keep an impaired driver from getting on the Anderson Speedway track and endangering others.