ROMNEY CALLS FOR CRACKDOWN ON REPEAT DRUNK DRIVERS
"You Drink & Drive. You Lose." campaign boosts law enforcement for holiday traveling
Governor Mitt Romney today urged Massachusetts residents and visitors to drive safely during the Labor Day weekend and to use good judgment before consuming alcohol and getting behind the wheel. Romney also urged the passage of "Melanie's Bill," a proposal that stiffens penalties for repeat drunk drivers.
"We're going into overdrive this Labor Day to keep the roads safe here in Massachusetts," said Romney. "The bottom line is: You Booze. You Cruise. You Lose.'"
Romney said that state and local law enforcement will step up efforts throughout the Labor Day weekend by focusing on impaired and aggressive drivers, as well as safety belt violators. Throughout the holiday weekend, over 300 Massachusetts state and local law enforcement agencies will conduct extra traffic enforcement focused on impaired driving and other traffic violations.
On August 19, additional traffic enforcement was implemented as part of a national "You Drink & Drive. You Lose." mobilization that runs through the Labor Day weekend. The extra law enforcement and a supporting statewide public information campaign were made possible with approximately $1 million in funding by the Governor's Highway Safety Bureau.
"We are going to continue our additional efforts throughout the holiday weekend and will be utilizing all available resources within our department to help ensure that everyone has a safe and happy holiday," said Colonel Thomas G. Robbins, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police.
This Labor Day weekend, AAA predicted nationally 28.8 million will take a vacation in a car or truck, about 100,000 more than last year. Nationally over 510 people will die in automobile crashes during the holiday weekend according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2004 there were four people killed in motor vehicle crashes over the Labor Day weekend in Massachusetts.
The State Police will continue Operation Zero Tolerance - a proactive campaign targeting impaired drivers, aggressive drivers, and drivers who are not wearing their safety belts. As part of this campaign, the State Police will have more than 400 additional officers augmenting regular patrols and will have dedicated patrols engaged in saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints.
In addition to the "You Drink & Drive. You Lose." campaign, Romney pushed "Melanie's Bill," legislation that implements a long-term approach to help protect Massachusetts citizens from repeat drunk drivers that threaten roadways.
"Repeat offenders are sneaking behind the wheel and their recklessness puts too many innocent lives in harm's way," said Romney. "They should know that we're going after them."
While first-time impaired drivers pose a serious threat, Romney's bill has focused public attention on the Commonwealth's weak laws for repeat drunk drivers. There are more than 37,000 Massachusetts residents who have had their license revoked as habitual offenders by the Registry of Motor Vehicles and more than 200 motorists have eight or more impaired driving arrests.
"I would urge people not drink and drive over the long Labor Day weekend. It is one of the easiest ways to turn a holiday into a catastrophe," Edward Malia, of Quincy, whose pregnant granddaughter was struck by a repeat drunk driver in July.
"Driving drunk is bad enoughto do it repeatedly, or after a license has been suspended, is unconscionable," said State Senator Steven Baddour. "Without added consequences for repeat drunk drivers, especially the threat of jail time, they will continue to put our families' livesthe lives of our childrenin danger. It's time to send a message that Massachusetts does not tolerate those who so blatantly threaten our safety time and time again."
Romney signed legislation adopting a .08 blood alcohol content "per se" law in June 2003 and filed similar legislation last year to strengthen Massachusetts drunk driving laws. The bill was passed by both chambers of the Legislature but it failed to get a final enactment vote before the legislative session ended. The Commonwealth remains one of 14 states still not in compliance with federal requirements for repeat drunk driving penalties.
Massachusetts faces a September 30 deadline to adopt Melanie's Bill to ensure its impaired driving laws conform to current federal requirements. Failure to adopt the proposed legislation will require Massachusetts to transfer an estimated $9 million of its federal highway construction funds to safety programming by the Governor's Highway Safety Bureau.
Between 2003 and 2004, the number of people killed in crashes with at least one vehicle operator with an illegal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) rose from 156 to 164. All types of motor vehicle-related fatalities in Massachusetts rose three percent between 2003 and 2004.
For more information on the "You Drink & Drive. You Lose." mobilization as well as details on Melanie's Bill please go to http://www.mass.gov/portal/www.mass.gov/ghsb.