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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Thoughts? From 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:

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
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.''

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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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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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
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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