Hiller Instinct: Drunk Drivers
The Hiller Instinct: Hiller Instinct: Drunk Drivers
In Lynn, a car pins a woman against a wall. The driver is charged with driving drunk for the third time.
In Quincy, a pregnant mother is rushed to a hospital and her baby delivered by an emergency operation. Police say she was hit by a man already convicted of drunk driving four times. Edward Melia, the pregnant woman's grandfather says, "these people, go into court, they get a slap on the wrist and they're on their way."
It's no coincidence we repeatedly have these stories about repeat offenders. The truth is, if you want to drink and drive and keep driving, then drive drunk in Massachusetts.
Barbara Harrington, from the Massachusetts mothers against drunk driving says, "with reference to repeat offenders, we have stubbornly refused to make any progress."
The last time MADD graded states on controlling drinking and driving, Massachusetts got an "F" and we earned it. Massachusetts is one of the few states that has no mandatory jail sentences for repeat offenders, and no comprehensive mandatory treatment program either.
Harrington adds, "the lack of mandatory sentences in Massachusetts makes us a soft-on-drunk-driving state. The lack of effective treatment to go with those convictions is also completely counter-productive."
Just as counter productive: there’s no real penalty here for refusing to take a breathalyzer or field-sobriety test. So lawyers simply advise repeat offenders not to take them. You can thank the state constitution for that legal loophole, because it protects drunk drivers from incriminating themselves. No other state does that.
Massachusetts state representative Frank Hynes of Marshfield says, "Massachusetts is very soft on repeat offenders." Rep. Hynes points to another reason why: about 25 percent of Beacon Hill legislators are lawyers, some of whom defend drunk drivers.
"If you are on the one hand in the business of representing drunk drivers, should you be voting on legislation? And my response is you should not... And i think the ethics commission ought to really look at that," Hynes added.
13-year-old Melanie Powell was on her way to a birthday party in Marshfield when a repeat offender ran her down. Now her name is on a bill that gets tough on drunk drivers. "Melanie's Bill" calls for mandatory jail sentences for repeat offenders and unappealable license suspensions for refusing to take a breathalyzer or field-sobriety test.
"Right now, chronic drunk drivers know how to manipulate the system. They know how to get acquittals and our laws allow them to do that," says lt. Governor, Kerry Healey. "this law, 'Melanie's Law', would shift the balance back towards protecting innocent people who are driving on the roads."
Melanie's bill would change the odds. Here's what they are: right now, you're more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than murdered in Massachusetts.
If you think that's nuts, let your legislators know it.
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