WEST CHESTER (November 26, 2019) – The choices you make regarding drinking or using drugs and getting behind the wheel can impact your entire life and that of other drivers, state Senator Andy Dinniman reminded residents and motorists today.
“In recent years, we’ve seen an epidemic of drinking and driving, including terribly tragic cases where bad decisions made by drunk and/or drugged drivers have torn families apart. These losses continue to reverberate throughout our community today,” he said. “As we approach the holiday season, everyone ought to be reminded that when you decide to drive while impaired on drugs or alcohol, your entire life – your entire world – can change in an instant. Don’t do it. And don’t let others do it.”
Dinniman’s remarks came during Thanksgiving week. The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving has become one of the deadliest on roadways due to the drunk and drugged drivers.
More than 800 people died in vehicle crashes on this day from 2013 through 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2018 alone, 133 people died in alcohol-related crashes from Wednesday at 6 p.m. to Monday morning at 5:59 a.m.
In Pennsylvania last year, state police investigated 1,116 crashes during the five-day Thanksgiving holiday driving period from Nov. 21 through Nov. 25, 2018. The total represents a 13.8 percent increase compared to the 981 crashes investigated during the Thanksgiving holiday driving period in 2017.
Of the 1,116 crashes investigated, 80 were alcohol-related, 213 people were injured, and four people were killed in four crashes. Similarly, during the 2017 Thanksgiving holiday driving period, six people lost their lives in crashes investigated by the Pennsylvania State Police.
“Unfortunately, what should be a happy and joyous time can turn to one of unspeakable tragedy when it comes to drinking and driving. The combination of more people traveling on our roads and more social events and drinking can be fatal, but it need not be. Drunk and/or drugged driving crashes, injuries and deaths are entirely preventable,” he said. “And while we’ve made some great progress in cracking down on repeat offenders in recent years, there’s still more work to do.”
Those efforts, which Dinniman has consistently and strongly supported to keep our roads safe from drunk or drugged drivers, include:
- Act 33 of 2016, expanding the use of interlock ignition devices for DUI offenders and requiring interlock ignition devices for first-time DUI offenders with high blood alcohol content.
- Act 153 of 2018, targeting repeat DUI offenders with tougher penalties and longer sentences, including aggravated DUI and aggravated assault by vehicle while DUI.
Last week, Senate Bill 773 (Deana’s Law), unanimously passed the Senate Transportation Committee and is set to go to the Senate floor for a vote. The bill, introduced by state Senator Tom Killion and co-sponsored by Dinniman, calls for substantially increasing penalties for those who have multiple DUI convictions and targeting offenders who repeatedly drive drunk with high Blood Alcohol Content levels in their systems.
Senate Bill 773 is named for Deana Eckman of the Delaware Valley region who was tragically killed by repeated DUI offender earlier this year. The man responsible for the DUI accident that took her life had five previous DUIs on his record in the prior 10 years, all with high rates of alcohol in his system. He was sentenced to 25 and a half to 50 years in state prison last week.