(KMSP) - In February, the Fox 9 Investigators exposed a dramatic rise in overdoses - some of them fatal - from huffing cans of spray-duster.
The chemical in the cans is not covered by Minnesota DWI laws, so lawmakers are now taking steps to change that.
The move would broaden the impaired driving law quite a bit, as the current DWI law uses an OSHA list of hazardous agents that does not include spray duster or a host of other things people now use to get high.
Clay Kendhammer never wanted this crusade to change Minnesota law, but last July along I-94 in Wisconsin his little brother and two friends were killed by a wrong way driver.
“These are three real guys--they really lived," he said. "They were really good people, and they died in a horrible way."
The driver, 36-year-old Serghei Kundilovski, later pleaded guilty to three counts of reckless homicide. Prosecutors say he’d been huffing aerosol spray duster, which is covered under Wisconsin impaired driving laws but not Minnesota’s.
“Had this happened 40 miles to the west, the driver would have been charged with careless driving,” Kendhammer said.
Spray duster is often sold in large quantities, with no restrictions like you find with spray paint.
“Not all substances that impair driving are recognized the same under current law. Consequently, not all impaired drivers are treated the same,” said Chief Jeff Tate with the Minnesota Police Chiefs Association.
The bill, which got its first committee hearing Tuesday, would change Minnesota DWI laws from a list of specific substances to simply say “intoxicants.”
During the Capitol hearing, Clay showed a photo of how much ultra-duster he found on a store shelf and talked about how retailers need to act more responsibly in imposing restrictions on its sale. In lieu of that, removing a loophole for Minnesota prosecutors is a first step.
“If this law isn’t changed, when this happens again - not if - you’re going to deny those families justice,” Kendhammer said.
The bill is being considered for inclusion in a broader public safety bill.