Last year, diners at a Wilkes-Barre breakfast eatery got a grand slam they weren’t expecting when a sport-utility vehicle smashed into the side of the restaurant, seriously injuring several people. The driver of that vehicle was drunk and was subsequently sentenced to jail time for the crash.
Although most drunk driving injuries occur on the road, cases like this reveal no one is safe from impaired drivers. The Wilkes-Barre DUI accident lawyers at Metzger Wickersham believe that aggressively attacking this issue should be a priority for everyone.
It’s in this spirit that we are highlighting the latest push by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, called the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving: 2014 Report to the Nation.
MADD isn’t shy in calling out drunk driving for exactly what it is: a type of violent crime. It is the cause of one-third of all traffic deaths, which is important to remember in light of recent statistics showing the number of DUI fatalities have been halved since the 1980s.
The MADD campaign focuses on supporting law enforcement efforts to target drunk drivers, as well as promoting ignition interlock requirements for DUI offenders – even for first-time offenders.
Here in Pennsylvania, the device is required only for those convicted a second or subsequent time for drunk driving. The systems cost an average of $1,000, with the offender expected to foot the bill. Usually, the court will require the offender to use the device for at least one year. However, any violation of the original court order could mean an extension for an additional year.
MADD intends to push legislators in states like Pennsylvania to adopt stricter ignition interlock requirements in 2014.
Another aspect of MADD’s effort involves support of developing technologies that would render all vehicles – not just those equipped with ignition interlock – inoperable if the driver is drunk.
The organization notes that in 2006, there were 38 states that held sobriety checkpoints and one state that required ignition interlock devices for all DUI offenders arrested for operating a vehicle above the 0.08 limit. By 2011, there were still 38 states holding DUI checkpoints. There were also 32 states holding “no refusal weekends,” which involved on-site magistrates to sign warrants to obtain a blood draw for any suspected drunk drivers at a sobriety checkpoint who refused a breathalyzer. Also that year, the number of states requiring ignition interlock devices for first-time offenders jumped to 16.
In 2013, there were the same number of states holding checkpoints and no-refusals, but the number of states that had bolstered their ignition interlock laws had spiked by an additional four.
Also in that seven-year time frame, the idea for driver alcohol-detection systems went from being a concept to being a proposal that is authorized and funded with $5 million annually by Congress.
The federal government has also offered a $20 million annual incentive grant for states to pass tougher ignition interlock laws. Pennsylvania has yet to act on this offer.
Another initiative MADD supports is the passage of greater penalties for those who drive intoxicated with a child passenger. Pennsylvania is unfortunately quite lax in this regard. For DUI offenders who drive with under-18 passengers, a first-time offense will face a maximum penalty of 100 hours of community service and a minimum $1,000 fine. A two-time offender can receive up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine. A third-time offender can receive between six months and two years of incarceration.
Considering what a serious threat drunk drivers pose to the people of Wilkes-Barre, other communities throughout PA, and nationwide, we support MADD in their efforts to enact tougher DUI legislation.
The car accident lawyers of Metzger Wickersham have offices in Wilkes-Barre, Pottsville, York, Lancaster, Shippensburg, and Harrisburg, PA. Contact us at 1-800-WIN-WIN-1 (946-9461) or visit www.mwke.com for a free case evaluation.