Is Massachusetts doing all it can to prevent drunk driving accidents?

Rawson, Merrigan & Litner, LLP Posted in Articles on 01/19/21

Many people in Suffolk County like to relax after a hard day at work with a cold beer or a glass of wine with their dinner. Some like to drink a little more and this, combined with driving, can result in a horrific car accident in which someone is severely injured or even killed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that drunk drivers cause close to 30 deaths per day in the United States. Arrests for impaired driving in 2010, which includes alcohol and narcotics, were over 1.4 million. Advocates are calling for tougher laws but in Massachusetts, many people question whether current laws are being enforced.

Concerns over drunk-driving enforcement

In Boston, the number of drunk-driving arrests has decreased by one-third since 2009, a sharp contrast with cities of comparable size, according to the Boston Globe. Some people feel that law enforcement is not giving the matter the attention that it deserves; Massachusetts state police made more than 1,400 arrests in Boston for drunk driving since 2010. However, for the year 2012, Boston police only arrested 241 people. A former Boston police lieutenant, interviewed by the Globe, says that drunk driving is not a large focus for the department.

Recently, an opinion in the Newbury Port News expressed outrage over the fact that a 62-year-old man was arrested and charged with his 12th drunk driving offense. The fact that the man had his license permanently taken away from him in 2010 seems to indicate that this kind of sentence is not effective for some people. The article addressed the question of why the man did not receive jail time as a part of his punishment.

Current penalties for drunk driving

One way to discourage people from driving while under the influence of alcohol is to pass stiff penalties for drunk drivers that include license suspension and revocation for first or second offenses. Doing so can lower the risk of a drunk driver causing serious injury to an innocent victim in a car crash. Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that Massachusetts has made some progress but there is more that can be done.

Current Massachusetts penalties include:

  • Fines
  • Incarceration
  • Probation
  • Participation in a substance abuse program
  • License revocation

The above penalties vary, depending on whether someone is facing a first charge or a third charge. However, if law enforcement fails to put an emphasis on catching people driving under the influence, these penalties are unlikely to be a strong deterrent to the behavior.

Civil justice for victims

When a victim of a drunk driver is unable to seek justice through the criminal court system, they do have the option of using the civil court system. Victims can seek to hold drunk drivers financially accountable for their actions and seek compensation for the loss incurred by a collision. If you are a victim of a drunk driver, meeting with an experienced car accident attorney can help you understand your right to recovery.