The holidays are in full swing, and with that come holiday parties. These gatherings are great fun, filled with good company, good drinks, and bad gifts. I would like to take this time to focus on the good drinks for a moment. Most of us have hit the egg-nog a little too hard at one time or another, but all too often someone will get behind the wheel afterward.
Drunk driving is a serious issue in America, and in Massachusetts. According to the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) website www.madd.org, Massachusetts ranks 40th out of 51 states (Washington, DC is listed as a separate entity) for drunk driving. The ranking is based on the number of DUI-related traffic deaths in each state, with number 1 having the lowest percentage and number 51 the highest. The website states 36% of all traffic deaths in Massachusetts are DUI-related. There have been 115 DUI fatalities in the most recent year. According to the website, this is an increase of 8.5% from the previous year. In comparison, Rhode Island ranks 46th overall but has had a 26% decrease in DUI fatalities from the prior year.
Repeat offenders are a real issue in Massachusetts. According to the most recent figures on MADD’s website, there are 22,253 people who have been caught drunk driving 3 times and 4,840 who have been caught 5 times. Other states that rank worse than Massachusetts in drunken driving statistics do not have this high a number of repeat offenders. Massachusetts does have the mandatory Interlock program in effect, where repeat offenders are required to have a breathalyzer system installed in their vehicle. The vehicle can only be started after the driver blows into the device to show they are under the legal limit for alcohol consumption. Based on the statistics listed above, this is not curbing the problem. Something more must be done and harsher penalties for repeat offenders is only part of the solution.
The real solution rests with every driver in this state. Make the conscious decision to call a cab or have a sober friend drive home if you have had too much to drink. Don’t be the reason someone has to plan a funeral on Christmas Day, drink responsibly and drive sober.