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Thoughts on the Focus on DUI

There is an interesting magazine article in Outside titled We Sold Our Souls to Drunk Driving.  The author talks about how the focus on drunk driving by MADD and other advocacy groups has caused us to take other types of dangerous driving less seriously.  As you might imagine, Outside looks at the issue from the standpoint of people who bike, run or walk outside.  In cities and other areas, it is nearly impossible to engage in those activities without having some concern about motorists.

The author begins with an anecdote, the story of Madison Lyden.  She was cycling along in the bike lane when a car-service driver pulled into her bike lane forcing her into traffic where she was struck and killed by a private sanitation truck.  The truck driver was charged with driving while intoxicated, but the car-service driver was charged with nothing.  

It is an example, the author argues, of how we have used our focus on DUI to avoid dealing with other aspects of irresponsible driving.  He observes that while DUI deaths have been cut in half, overall road deaths have remained steady at about 40,000 per year.  

He points out, not without some basis, that a driver is better off killing a cyclist or pedestrian than being caught just driving after having a few drinks.  In Georgia, the punishments for misdemeanor vehicular homicide (not based on DUI or reckless driving) are pretty serious and have license consequences, but the factor that the author identifies can occur, that is that prosecutors are sometimes willing to forego prosecution of the offense in cases where it might have happened to anyone and the person has a good record.   

In Georgia, misdemeanor vehicular homicide carries up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.  Conviction of misdemeanor vehicular homicide imposes a 120 day driver's license suspension.  There is no misdemeanor serious injury by vehicle, so grievous injuries to a cyclist or pedestrian not caused by DUI or reckless driving do not impose an additional charge or the possibility of a license suspension.

It is certainly something to think about.  

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.

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