Is Pennsylvania tough enough on drunk drivers?

Pennsylvania’s penalties for drunk driving may not be severe enough to properly deter people from making the right choices.

Every year, countless lives in Pennsylvania are unnecessarily lost due to the negligence of drivers who make the choice to operate vehicles after they have consumed alcohol.

Records from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that between 2010 and 2014, only Philadelphia County experienced more drunk driving deaths than Allegheny County. Over those five years, 125 people died in accidents involving alcohol in Philadelphia County and 108 people died in Allegheny County. Lancaster County had the next highest number of drunk driving fatalities with 81.

Statewide records for drunk driving deaths include the following:

  • In 2010, 424 people died at the hands of drunk drivers.
  • The following year saw a slight drop to 398 impaired driving deaths.
  • In 2012, the state experienced a jump to 407 drunk driving fatalities.
  • There were 361 lives lost to drunk drivers in 2013.
  • The lowest number of drunk driving fatalities in the five years occurred in 2014 with 345 deaths.

It is important for Pennsylvania residents to focus not so much on the fact that the deaths in 2014 numbered less than in the previous few years as it is to focus on the fact that 345 people still died that year. This highlights the continuing problem that drunk driving really is in Pennsylvania.

Laws may not necessarily protect appropriately

Philly.com reports that the state's penalties for drunk driving are not as robust as those in some other states. For example, as of 2014, at least 31 other states mandated the use of ignition interlock devices for all drivers convicted of impaired driving offenses. That was not the case in Pennsylvania then nor is it today.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, only drivers convicted of second or subsequent DUI offenses may be required to use IIDs.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly notes that the basic penalties for a first DUI offense with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or 0.09 percent does not mandate either the use of an IID or even time in jail. A driver convicted of this offense must complete alcohol treatment and traffic education, pay a token fine and successfully complete a probation sentence of six months.

How victims can get help

When a person suffers a serious injury or even dies after being hit by a drunk driver, it is hard to think that true justice can ever be served. Nothing can bring a life back or fully reverse the effects of some injuries. However, talking to an attorney at this time is an important step in learning how to seek appropriate compensation.