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Thoughts? From boston.com today...

Report: Massachusetts among worst states for drunken driving

By Steve Leblanc, Associated Press, 11/21/02

BOSTON -- Massachusetts is among the three worst states in the country when it comes to fighting drunken driving and underage drinking, according to a report released Thursday by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

The state scored a "D-minus" on a national report card by the advocacy group, which faulted Massachusetts' political leaders for passing fewer than half of the laws reviewed by MADD in part to create the grades.

"We need to do more," said Barbara Harrington, executive director of MADD Massachusetts. "It is time to rekindle efforts against driving."

The group said the first thing Massachusetts should do is pass a law that mandates any driver with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit be automatically considered drunk.

Currently, state law only allows blood-alcohol levels as evidence of intoxication, rather than as proof. Juries can find a driver innocent of drunken driving even if their blood-alcohol level is above the legal limit.

Massachusetts is the only state in the country without the law, and faces the loss of millions in federal highway funds if it doesn't adopt the change.

Advocates also criticized lawmakers for failing to pass a bill allowing police to pull over a driver and issue citations for failing to wear a seat belt.

Currently, drivers in Massachusetts can be cited for failing to use seat belts only if they are pulled over for another offense, such as speeding or running a red light.

Police and prosecutors said the new laws would help them crack down on drunken driving.

"When that police officer makes the stop, he or she needs the tools, as do we in the courts, to produce the evidence that that person has been driving drunk," said Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley.

In 2001, 234 people died in car accidents involving alcohol in Massachusetts, about 49 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities, compared to a national average of 41 percent.

The rate of young drivers who had been drinking and were involved in fatal accidents in Massachusetts increased between 1998 and 2001, according to the report.

Nationally, there were 17,448 drunken driving deaths in 2001, up from 16,572 in 1999, the last time MADD conducted its "Rating the States" survey.

Massachusetts tied with Alaska, which also received a D-minus. One state, Montana, got an F.

The organization graded the nation with a C down from a C-plus in 1999. California ranking the highest with a B-plus.

The grading system is skewed against states that have existing tough drunken driving laws, said James Borghesani, spokesman for acting Gov. Jane Swift.

"The states that are trying to catch up with Massachusetts get good grades because they have a long way to go and are closing the gap between their lax drunk driving laws and Massachusetts' tough drunk driving laws," Borghesani said.

Swift filed a drunken-driving legislative package, including the bill mandating anyone with a high blood-alcohol level be automatically considered drunk. The legislation did not pass.

House Speaker Thomas Finneran said the bill could come up again in the new legislative session.

The grades are based on the number of alcohol-related crashes in each state, trends in the number of deaths, state laws on the books and enforcement efforts.

See MADD's detailed report on Massachusetts at:
http://www3.madd.org/laws/grades.cfm?StateGrade=MA
 

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This is sad. Hopefully MADD will keep pushing for more aggressive action in this state (and everywhere for that matter). I think that a per se law is critical here. I'm curious what others think about enforcement/prosecution. It seems to me that LE is doing the job as best it can through tough enforcement, but prosecuting attorneys are not nearly as aggressive as they need to be if we intend to curtail the problem. Although I think the judicial shortcomings are most likely a result of legislative inactivity.

Drunk/Drugged driving is an issue that infuriates me. I'm tired of witnessing, night after night, obnoxious and arrogant $h!T-holes get in their cars at last call and parade around bragging about how they are "good drunk drivers." Same goes for operating boats under the influence. Sorry for the rant, but I'm still recovering from a LONG summer of dodging pinheads cruising the harbors with one hand on the helm, the other on a beer, and their eyes staring back at their wake. Then they try to run me off the road on the way home! I swear, they are all out to GET ME! :eek:
 

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Leadog...where do you work? (Private message me...I am with a PD marine unit.) I definatly agree about the drunk boating. Although every offense on the water is arrestable, things are not as clear. For example, alcohol can be consumed on a boat but the operator can't be under the influence etc. And a field sobreity test on a boat...don't go there. Bringing them into shore...everything on a boat is much harder.
 

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Wow... I just found an updated version of this story (see below for link) that was posted after the one I read. Here is the additional paragraph:

Finneran said he supports allowing police to pull over motorists because they aren't wearing seat belts, but is leery of mandating that anyone who registers a certain blood alcohol level is automatically considered drunk, calling it a ''rigid type of one-size-fits-all rule.''

http://www.boston.com/dailynews/325/region/Report_Massachusetts_among_wor:.shtml

HUH?!? I get it, the Massachusetts judicial system must somehow be smarter than the other 49 states who DO enforce their legal limits as proof of intoxication.

 

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This topic and others like it really irritate me. This includes not only OUI, but drug stops and illegals. First, the laws in MA are weak. No new news there. Out of the six OUI amendments that were slated for legislation last year, only one was passed, two were filibustered, and three were completely voted "nay." So, how do we combat this problem? The following is the "World according to Burner1."
1. GET RID OF ALL THE NON-MOTIVATED, LAZY, WAITING FOR RETIRMENT, NO GOOD OFFICERS! You all know who I'm talking about. Every dept. has them, do not condone the behavior. Hire a fresher, hopefully innovative, eager recruit that actually believes they CAN and will make a difference.
2. Start small. Have a zero tolerance policy. Eventually, the federal/state (joke)goverment will have to follow the lead. If anyone out there needs examples of severe complacency, just look at our policy on the border which resulted in "Malvo." (9/11 not withstanding). Or the drug trade. Does it bother anyone out there that a gram of cocaine is about $40, and a gram of gold is about $10? Just because the federal gov't doesn't want to do anything, doesn't mean you should.Yes, I am generalizing here, but those of you reading this are intelligent enough to know what I'm articulating.
I guess I'm so fired up right now, I'm going on a tangent. I know that there are a lot of you that are looking to get on a department.Don't be satisfied with just getting on. Make a difference, not for just your family or community, but OUR way of life. Make sure that WE will presevere, and not let the *%#@bags prevail!
 

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The laws in Massachusetts are similiar to Rhode Island. They water them down because the politicians, legislatures and judges sympathize with the drunk drivers. Rhode Island was just above Massachusetts but not much.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Originally posted by GD:
The laws in Massachusetts are similiar to Rhode Island. They water them down because the politicians, legislatures and judges sympathize with the drunk drivers. Rhode Island was just above Massachusetts but not much.
Is it that they sympathize, or is it that they are the habitual offenders? Forget the laws, some of the judicial decisions up here are downright insane. If our best bud Judge Maria Lopez admitted she was on crack when she was on the bench, things might make a little more sense!

 

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Well, here is an update that spells out exactly how much money we are losing because of these stupid laws... what an embarassment.

State misses out on millions in federal funds because of drunk driving laws

By Associated Press, 12/1/2002 02:02

BOSTON (AP) The state's drunken driving laws have cost it about $29 million in federal funds slated for infrastructure projects, The Boston Globe reported Sunday.

Massachusetts is the only state in the country in which drivers are not considered impaired if they register a blood alcohol level at or above the legal limit. Instead, prosecutors have to prove drivers are under the influence.

That law has prevented the state from qualifying for $11 million in federal incentive grants for infrastructure projects over the past five years.

Those inducements could turn into penalties starting at $5.4 million a year if Massachusetts does not change its law to comply with other states by October.

The state's open container and repeat offender laws have also cost the state $18 million in federal funding for infrastructure.

The money went instead to the Governor's Highway Safety Bureau for road hazard elimination and drunken-driving enforcement efforts.

''It's turning our back on free money,'' said John O'Keefe, of the state highway department.

Infrastructure funds are of particular interest in a state that has spent billions on the Big Dig project and is faced with 554 structurally deficient bridges.

The last three governors have filed bills that would make the .08 alcohol limit ''illegal per se,'' but the proposals have not made it past the Legislature's Criminal Justice Committee.

''There ought to be more public support before the Legislature enacts even more draconian laws,'' said state Rep. Stephen Tobin, a Quincy Democrat who co-chairs the Justice panel.

But state Rep. Reed Hillman, R-Strubridge, a member of the Criminal justice Committee, said Tobin and other legislative leaders are stalling needed changes.

''Practicing defense attorneys realize its much easier for the prosecution to convict drunk drivers if the per se law is successfully implemented,'' said Hillman, a former State Police superintendent.

Anti-drunken driving advocates say tougher laws could also save lives and trim hundreds of millions of dollars in legal expenses, medical care and insurance costs.

''It doesn't seem to make good sense to protect those accused of drunken driving at the expense of potential victims and taxpayers,'' said Barbara Harrington, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Massachusetts.

''We've got these hedges against getting convicted,'' said Ralph Hingson, associate dean for research at the Boston University School of Public Health. ''We need to get these tougher laws passed.''
 

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A little twist on things.......

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 - The nation's alcohol-related traffic death rate has dropped by more than half during the past 20 years, a government study shows. The study also shows that the chances of being killed by a driver who's been drinking still vary significantly from state to state.

http://msnbc.com/news/849069.asp

THE FEDERAL government's most comprehensive look at drunken driving accidents over the past two decades shows that gains in the fight against drunken driving have been widely disproportionate across the country.

Drivers in South Carolina, the state with the highest death rate, for example, are four times more likely to die in alcohol-related traffic accidents than drivers in Utah, the state with the lowest death rate.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration compiled the state-by-state statistics to encourage states at the bottom of the rankings to get tough on drivers who drink. The agency and law enforcement in every state say they will crack down on drunken and drugged drivers with sobriety checkpoints and increased patrols from Dec. 20 through Jan. 5, the kickoff to a yearlong effort to curb impaired driving.

The number of people killed in alcohol-related crashes has risen slightly since 1999 ending years of steady decline. Last year, 17,448 were killed, accounting for 41 percent of all U.S. traffic deaths.

THE 0.08 LIMIT
NHTSA defines an alcohol-related fatality as any that occurred in an accident where a driver, pedestrian or cyclist had alcohol detected in their blood. In most states, it is legal to drive with less than 0.08 percent blood alcohol content.

Last year, the alcohol-related death rate nationwide was 0.63 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, compared to 1.64 in 1982. That year, U.S. traffic deaths connected to alcohol use totaled 26,173, or 60 percent of all U.S. traffic deaths.

Today, Puerto Rico's alcohol-related death rate is higher than any state's - 1.38 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled during 2001. South Carolina, Montana, Louisiana and the District of Columbia also reported rates of more than one death for every 100 million vehicle miles.

States with the best records are Utah, Vermont, New York, Minnesota, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine, Virginia, Indiana and California - all with fewer than one-half death for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

After 1982, a national movement to curb drinking and driving began to gain momentum.

ACTION IN THE EARLY '80S

In the early 1980s, President Reagan formed a Presidential Task Force on drunken driving, Congress required states to raise the drinking age to 21 and the newly formed Mothers Against Drunk Driving began pushing for tougher anti-drinking legislation nationwide.

Tougher seat belt laws and improvements in vehicle safety also helped lower numbers. Deaths linked to alcohol use fell nearly every year in the 1980s and 1990s, reaching a low of 16,572 in 1999.

Highway safety advocates say Americans have become complacent about the dangers of drunken driving. Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association, said more attention has been focused recently on the risk of cell phone use than on drunken driving.

"We have very little evidence that a significant number of people are dying from cell phones, yet we know that more than 17,000 people died from drunken driving," he said.

MADD President Wendy Hamilton blames higher death rates in some states on a lack of political leadership. "Those states are not enforcing the right laws and are not passing the right laws," she said.

Adkins said states need more federal funding for highway patrols to stop drunken driving, especially in this era of budget shortfalls and increased police attention to homeland security duties.

Marilena Amoni, NHTSA's associate administrator, said drivers need to be held responsible when they choose to drink and drive.

"It's not just the role of the state and federal government, it's a personal choice to make the right decision every time you get in the car," she said.
 

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Hi LEOs
I agree on all your responses. Ted have another one Kennedy or Tommy I am hung over trying to balance the budget Finneran are just some of the ones to blame for OUI laws. I am not saying I never had a drink but I did not act irresponsible and drive while I was intoxicated. The OUI law need improvement this new infra red breath test is a start. We (Ma) have to get serious about enforcing OUI and never mind lawyers and politicians getting rich of the OUI laws. Just my two cents.
 
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