TO THE EDITOR:
Many of us in the area are grieving over the tragic loss of life this past week, when a drunk driver with four previous drunk driving convictions took the life of a talented and gifted 24 year old woman in the prime of her life. This accident happened in Sheffield, Mass., but it could just as easily have occurred in Great Barrington, Stockbridge, or any other town in the state.
Though the driver’s license was suspended, it didn’t prevent him from getting behind the wheel once more, this time to commit murder. It should come as no surprise that a repeat offender with a flagrant disregard for the law might drive drunk again.
Drunk driving penalties are grossly inadequate in Massachusetts, and it is time to change the law. Currently, a fourth time offender faces a jail term of 1-5 years, and a suspended license for 10-but as this recent incident reveals, license suspension does not provide adequate protection-incarceration does.
The last time this driver was convicted of drunk driving, he only served 120 days of a one-year sentence. No drug dealer or serial child molester would be freed so quickly after four convictions. If there were ever a compelling case for life in prison, this is it. If any meaning is to come out of this tragedy, we must change sentencing guide lines so that it isn’t possible to be convicted four times. Let’s mandate a very lengthy prison sentence after two or perhaps three convictions, lest other families suffer a similar loss.
In a time when bitter partisan public policy debates divide our country, this is one issue which all reasonable people can surely agree on. What is the argument for permitting dangerous, drunk drivers, with a long history of jeopardizing the lives of others, to get off quickly, allowing them to be free to kill and maim?
I encourage concerned residents to voice their concerns to our state representatives (Representative Smitty Pignatelli: Rep.Smitty@mahouse.gov; Senator Ben Downing: email@example.com), and encourage them to enact new, tougher drunk driving penalties, so such a tragedy does not happen again
Great Barrington, Mass.
March 5, 2012