News Article Details

SHEA-TAYLOR: Melanie's Law just makes sense for safer driving

The Sun Chronicle - 3/26/2017

So, did you hear the one about the drunk who staggers from the barroom across the parking lot and, with alcohol-palsied hands, breathes, somehow slips the key into the vehicle ignition, twists it - and gets absolutely no response? This is not a joke.

It's the power of Melanie's Law and closure of a loophole in this state's ignition interlock law could result in an even greater decline in drunk driving fatalities.

So proclaims Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a watchdog. MADD wants the law applied not only to repeat convicted offenders ? as has been so since 2006 - but all first-time convicted drunk drivers testing at a .08 BAC (blood alcohol content) level or greater.

(The lock is a permanent, state-monitored in-car breath test. If a BAC above the pre-programmed limit is found, the device prevents the vehicle from starting.)

The proposed revision was passed by the Massachusetts Senate in 2016, but the House failed to take it up before the legislative session ended.

As of August 2015, 5,029 interlocks had been installed in the state and had prevented a convicted drunk driver start-up about 38,000 times between Dec. 1, 2006 and Dec. 1, 2016, according to MADD.

It's a stretch to find someone who does not know of someone who has driven drunk and has crashed into someone or something, or someone who has been a victim.

In Massachusetts, 1,370 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver between 2003 and 2012, the Centers for Disease Control reports. That's highest in New England. There were 8,258 DUI (driving under the influence) arrests in a recent year.

Open the newspaper any day and horrific stories are there: They relate to tragedies sustained by someone who could have been you or yours or mine.

An Attleboro man named John Brady this past week pulled a woman from a burning SUV after it was struck by an alleged drunken driver speeding down Pleasant Street.

Brady told Sun Chronicle crime reporter David Linton the woman appeared to be just regaining consciousness and the door was damaged. He said he had to put his foot against the vehicle to force the door open as flames spread from the engine compartment.

Meanwhile, a Boston man accused of killing the passenger in a cab in a drunken driving crash on Interstate 95 was arraigned last week in Attleboro District Court. He told state police he had "five or six beers," according to a state police report made public.

You should know that there were other stories of alleged drunk driving reported last week in this newspaper, but that's a sampler. It's enough to make you sick.

Melanie's Law was launched in tribute to a 13-year-old Marshfield pedestrian on her way to a birthday party and killed by a repeat-offense drunk driver. MADD is calling on lawmakers to close the Melanie's Law loophole and require mandatory ignition interlocks for all offenders and to adopt no-refusal requirements. A first drunk driving offense is not a "mistake" - everyone knows drunk driving can kill. And, hey, if you're going to drive drunk, stay off the roads my family travels.

BETSY SHEA-TAYLOR, a former editor and writer for The Sun Chronicle, is a freelance writer. She can be reached at prosewing@aol.com.

 
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