This week on Getting Legal with Tim Misny CBS 19 at 7:55am, we’re discussing the hot topic issue of drinking and driving.
This issue is front and center for Cleveland residents for two reasons. Not only is St. Patrick’s Day around the around the corner, but also because of the recent arrest of Cleveland City Councilman Zack Reed for suspicion of driving while under the influence.
I know Zack Reed personally. As a councilman, his work in providing local services to those in need is unparalleled.
It’s easy to jump on the media bandwagon and pass judgment, but we must keep in mind that Zack Reed is, indeed, innocent until proven guilty. However, even if the facts surrounding the 2:00 am Tuesday morning arrest are taken in the best light possible for the councilman, it ain’t good.
According to the arresting officers, Reed displayed obvious traits of drunkenness, not to mention his failure of the roadside sobriety test.
Julie Leggett, the Executive Director of the Northeastern Ohio Affiliate of Mothers against Drunk Driving, weighed in on Reed’s three DUI encounters by saying, “That’s three potential times that someone could have lost their life.”
When we put a spotlight on the drinking and driving problem in our society, the illuminated statistics are shocking, if not numbing.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 9,878 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2011. This translates into one death every 53 minutes. The Center for Disease Control determined that the average drunk driver has driven under the influence 80 times before his or her first arrest. And possibly the most foreboding mention is that one in three people will be involved in an alcohol related crash in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, the Zack Reed scenario is not the only case of DUI recidivism in the Buckeye State. Last year alone there were 147,000 three-time offenders and 33,000 five-time offenders.
Our legislature has enacted stiff penalties in terms of fines, incarceration, and drivers’ license suspension, but their efforts have proven to be ineffective deterrents.
As a former prosecutor, I have represented the state against hundreds of drunk drivers, and as a plaintiff personal injury lawyer, I have helped many victims of drunk driving and their families. I can tell you from first-hand experience that all the tough laws in the world won’t make a bit of difference.
My suggestion is that first offenders, in addition to spending a weekend at a cushy hotel watch videos on the horrors of drunk driving, should have to spend a week with a victim of a drunk driving accident or someone whose life has been turned upside down by drunk driving.
The devastation left in the wake of accident caused by a drunk driver is often times beyond devastating and, in fact, incomprehensible. I have represented families that were destroyed by drunk drivers and the toughest fact for the family to deal with is that the drunk driver has gotten on with their life and walked away unscathed.
These concerns are timely in light of this Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. While the bars will be filled with people dressed in green excessively consuming libations, I know that they would think twice about getting behind the wheel if they had ever spent five minutes with a victim of drunk driving or someone whose life has been turned upside down by drunk driving.
Click here to learn more about my involvement with MADD and the 2013 Spring Death Notification Training Seminar Series.