EDITORIAL: Keep stiffer penalties in mind before drinking and driving on New Year's Eve
- Pennsylvania has about 10,000 alcohol-related crashes and 300 fatalities annually.
- There are about 250,000 repeat DUI offenders in Pennsylvania.
- There are about 140,000 Pennsylvanians whose licenses are currently suspended because of a DUI.
By now, we all know about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Unfortunately, every day, folks still insist on hitting the road after having a few too many adult beverages.
It’s a sad commentary on human nature.
Still, on this day above all others, it’s important to remind everyone to act responsibly this evening.
On New Year’s Eve, people like to celebrate the coming of a new year, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Everyone enjoys a good party.
Just don’t get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking. Simple as that.
If being safe, and keeping others safe, isn’t enough incentive for staying sober, however, here’s another reason, especially if you already have DUI convictions on your record.
The penalties for repeated Pennsylvania DUI offenses just got stiffer.
New law: Legislation passed in October by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf established the state's first felony for DUI. The new stiffer penalties took effect on Sunday, Dec. 23, and will apply to repeat DUI offenders on New Year’s Eve. They include increased fines and penalties for driving under the influence on a license suspended because of a DUI conviction.
According to a recent Associated Press story, it applies when someone has been charged with a third offense in a decade with at least twice the legal limit for alcohol, or any fourth-time offender. Pennsylvania law sets the legal limit for driving at 0.08 percent.
Previously, all DUI offenses in Pennsylvania had been treated as misdemeanors, which carry lighter penalties and fewer other consequences.
The new law was long overdue. Repeat DUI offenses should not be considered minor crimes.
Scary numbers: The new law is definitely something that everyone should keep in mind, especially on an evening that's become synonymous with overindulgence.
After all, Pennsylvania has about 10,000 alcohol-related crashes and 300 fatalities annually. Pennlive.com recently reported that there are about 250,000 repeat DUI offenders in Pennsylvania and about 140,000 persons whose licenses are currently suspended because of a DUI.
Those are truly frightening numbers.
"What we think will happen is that people are going to have another reason not to drive impaired again after the first time," Chris Demko of Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving recently told Pennlive.com.
Tragic tale: Demko's 18-year-old daughter was killed by a repeat DUI offender four years ago.
The new law also mandates longer jail time for those who unintentionally cause someone's death because of a repeat DUI violation.
"At a bare minimum, it's going to take some of the worst offenders off the road for a longer period of time when they get caught, so they can't go out and kill anybody," Demko said.
The death of Demko’s daughter is a tragic tale that every driver should remember before taking the first drink this evening. We each have the individual power to make sure that we’re not responsible for another such tragedy.
You can still enjoy New Year’s Eve, just do it responsibly.
— The Associated Press contributed information for this editorial.