Drunk driving is again in the news both nationally and here in Boston. Last Friday Guy Patierno, 62, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI) for the 12th time. In a Salem News editorial the question is raised: “Why wasn’t he in jail?” His license was revoked for life in 2010 and his behavior in this and previous incidents is noted as dangerous to the general public. A recent Boston Herald investigation notes that there are more than 1,000 drivers in Massachusetts with five or more DUI convictions who are still in possession of valid licenses.
Police say a Salem man with a suspended license and a vehicle with a suspended registration was arrested on his third drunken driving charge after a traffic stop the morning of May 7. Russel McGlone, 53, was arrested on charges of drunken driving, third offense; operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, subsequent offense; and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended registration, subsequent offense.
Police report a motorist was hospitalized and then arrested on a charge of drunken driving in the early morning of May 10 after she crashed into a building on Washington Square North and then reversed into a fence on Salem Common. Kathryn Rose Maloney, 20, of Salem, was arrested on a charge of drunken driving after she was transported to North Shore Medical Center.
A Beverly man who was found passed out at the wheel of his car in the right lane of Route 128 south early on May 10 and is being held without bail on what prosecutors say is at least his fourth drunken-driving charge. Brian Sadler, 37, pleaded not guilty to a charge of drunken driving during his arraignment in Salem District Court, where Judge Matthew Machera, after a brief hearing, concluded that Sadler posed too great a danger to the public to release under any conditions.
In other news, the National Transportation Safety Board is requesting that state legislatures lower the blood alcohol level standard for DUI from .08 to .05. Dramatic progress was made in the 1980s through the mid-1990s after the minimum drinking age was raised to 21 and the legally-allowable maximum level of drivers’ blood alcohol content was lowered to .08. Currently, drunken driving in America claims nearly 10,000 lives a year, down from 21,000 in 1982. Advocates for lowering the legal limit cite these statistics as well as the physical effects of a BAC of .05.
Effects of physical functioning at different BAC levels
Some loss of judgment
Slight body warmth
Decline in visual functions (rapid tracking of a moving target)
Decline in ability to perform two tasks at the same time (divided attention)
May have loss of small-muscle control (e.g., focusing your eyes)
Usually good feeling
Release of inhibition
Reduced ability to track moving objects
Reduced response to emergency driving situations
In 2011, 36% of motor vehicle related fatalities were alcohol related. In Massachusetts, for the same time period, the figure was 45%. In Massachusetts, in 29011, 32% of alcohol related motor vehicle fatalities had BAC of .08 or above equal to the national average.
At what point is a determination made that public safety must be protected and that a person’s alcoholism is too out of control to allow them to remain unsuccessfully treated in the community? For people who are unable to reach sobriety in the community sometimes incarceration is the only way they will be able to reach this goal.