There is an epidemic in the United States that kills and injures without a moment’s notice – drug-impaired driving, an issue few in the United States even realize exists. Statistics indicate that between 40 and 60 percent of arrested drivers have one or more drugs in their system. A witness to this epidemic firsthand, Karen Tarney is devoted to waking up the country to this social problem.
In 1989, while driving on the freeway, Tarney and her husband, Dick, were rear-ended by a driver high on cocaine. While her husband received only minor injuries, Tarney received permanent, life-threatening injuries that have required her to endure sixteen surgeries. Ten years later, Karen still undergoes surgeries, hospitalizations, and medical care. Unfortunately, the reporting officer that responded to Tarney’s accident lacked the needed skills to detect the other driver’s drug impairment at the original crash scene.
Determined to do something positive about the use of illegal drugs, impairing medications, and inhaled products that impair drivers behind the wheel, Tarney and her husband formed Citizens AgaiNst Drug Impaired Drivers (C.A.N.D.I.D.) in 1990, to prevent this tragedy from happening to others. The Tarneys have dedicated the last nine years to helping CANDID grow into a national non-profit organization, without pay, and often contributing their personal resources. CANDID’s mission is to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities due to all illegal drugs, prescription and over-the-counter medications, and inhaled products that impair driving. Karen Tarney works daily at CANDID to further the awareness of this issue and to guide and direct CANDID’s unique and trailblazing message.
Tarney works to make CANDID the link between professional groups and the community. Since young adults have the highest instance of fatality in these accidents, CANDID works with youth groups and driver education classes teaching them about drugged driving before they get behind the wheel. CANDID’s goal is self-responsibility for all. CANDID also works to inform workplace drivers, elderly, and the community at large. Tarney gives out annual awards at the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) conference from CANDID, to those working in the field of drug-impaired driving. She relentlessly pursues funds for CANDID and speaks to the media, corporations, community groups, and individuals to bring this issue into public awareness. She longs to see the Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) programs in place throughout the United States and the world. Recently, Tarney returned from a trip to the Netherlands and South Africa where she talked to officials about putting the DRE program into place.
Recent federal studies show that more than a quarter of all drivers have used drugs within two hours of getting behind the wheel and Tarney continues to live in fear of another crash. This fear drives her efforts to make CANDID a household name, with chapters in every community.