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Drunk driver kills a truck driver. Are we ready yet to face the inevitable?


A delivery truck driver, Maximo Hernandez, was driving his pickup truck to deliver newspapers when a drunk driver crossed the road and killed him on March 29, 2009. Normally we note truck driver negligence in this blog, but this accident underscores the danger of drunk drivers, to all motorists.

Strict laws have been placed on the books for some time now, yet the message has not reached the public. Drunk drivers continue to injure and kill others on the road. Statistics from the California CHP calculated that 1/3 of all accidents were caused by drunk driving. In 2006, nationally 13,470 fatalities in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes equates to one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 39 minutes. Night time driving has a much higher incidence than during the day. Is there a way to stop this senseless injury and wrongful death on our roads?

Education of those who drink and drive has not been a viable solution. While a great deal of effort has been undertaken, there has been virtually no change in the statistics for the last three years. Despite the classes, MADD campaigns and editorials by all those affected by such conduct, accidents still occur with regularity and frequency.
Checkpoints and crackdowns at a road block have done little to stop accidents. While we may catch some on the road, a greater deterrence is needed. Drunks simply avoid the hot spot areas and drive on. We cannot possibly check every driver, every time he or she gets behind the wheel. Or can we?

Recent advances in medical and car technology allow for breathalyzer installation in all vehicles. BUT WAIT you say! I didn’t do anything wrong, and I don’t want the hassle and expense of such equipment.

Here are some interesting facts to consider. A competent personal injury attorney will demonstrate to a jury or anyone for that matter, that a life can be worth 1 to 2 million dollars. The loss each year because of deaths then means a potential cost to society of over 10 billion dollars per year. The Math you say: (13,470 deaths times $1,000,000).
You don’t think we all pay for this? If the drunk driver had insurance, they pay the damages and we pay the increased premiums. If there is no insurance, or little insurance, many families become a ward of the State. They use Social Security, Medical, Medicare, underinsured motorist coverage welfare assistance programs, meaning you pay for their unfortunate circumstances.

Add this tidbit. Of the accidents that do not cause death, 2,572,482 emergency visits arose because of Motor Vehicle accidents in 2004 according to the Center for Disease Control. It is estimated that 1/3 of those accidents were DUI related. An average hospital emergency room visit is in excess of $1,000.00. That equates to $857 Million dollars in E/R bills per year. You don’t think you pay for that. Next time your health insurance bill comes with a fat increased in premium, remember you are paying for those charges even if the drunk driver insured in the form of premium increases, and you pay even more if that driver is underinsured or has no insurance because his or her license was taken away.

Add the damages for Lost wages, lost support, additional treatment, lost business productivity, and you get the grand estimate by the Center for Disease Control of $ 50 Billion dollars a year because of drunk drivers.

Considering that the cost of devices can now be less than $500 dollars and great strides have been made in more convenient testing methods than breath, testing, the idea of a breathalyzer in every car which stops the drunk from starting the car has come to fruition. Think of the savings in premiums we can enjoy in health insurance, car insurance, taxes and avoidance of loss of life.

The number one objection (other than inconvenience) seems to be that someone else can start the car for the drunk driver and let him or her be on their way. Of course that person is sober and not impaired. Let them weigh whether they want to be responsible for the economic damages, pain and suffering and government debt caused by this person, and whether they want to commit and be prosecuted for a felony. Otherwise they can simply call their friend or relative a cab.

James Ballidis is with the law firm of Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie and specializes his practice as a Personal Injury Attorney in California.