DUI penalties aren’t the worst that can happen |
Lori Falce, Columnist

DUI penalties aren’t the worst that can happen

Lori Falce
R.J. Oriez/U.S. Air Force
Pennsylvania drivers who drink and drive face stiffer penalties, including increased fines and penalties for driving under the influence on a license suspended because of a DUI conviction.

What could happen?

It’s just a beer. It’s just a glass of wine. It’s just a drink. It’s just a couple.

What’s the worst that could happen?

The worst is always a lot worse than it seems. The worst you think it could be is always a pale shell of how dark bad can really get. The worst is truly, unimaginably awful.

The worst is a mother who spends the rest of her life dating things based on her own personal line in the sand. “That was about two or three years after Joe died,” she will say.

The worst is the reaction of a young wife to police lights for years afterward. A swirl of blue and red never again makes her wonder if she was a few miles over the speed limit or if she missed a stop sign. They put her immediately back into the driveway as officers came to tell her what happened to her husband.

The worst is the father who sits holding his wife’s hand, rigid and brittle as they both are afraid they will break. They want to be strong for their son who is in court facing charges in the death of his best friend, the boy who had been like family to them since kindergarten.

The worst is the daughter who grows up hearing about the dad she doesn’t remember.

The worst is a high school class that can barely count how many of its members died in crashes.

The worst is how many people still think it can’t happen to them, it won’t happen to them. It’s just a drink. Or two. No big deal. Except it’s 29 people a day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That was more than 10,000 people in 2016.

And insurance company Safe Auto says the number of crashes involving alcohol or drugs goes up 71 percent over New Year’s Eve.

Now Pennsylvania is taking sterner steps. A new law increases penalties for repeat offenders. Four strikes, you get a felony. Three strikes if you’re driving with twice the legal blood alcohol limit.

It is a harsher penalty in a state where all drunk driving offenses were misdemeanors, but to those who have had the worst happen, the idea that someone can get to a fourth arrest before facing the stiffest consequences could be dangerously late in the game.

“At a bare minimum, it’s going to take some of the worst offenders off the road for a longer period of time when they get caught, so they can’t go out and kill anybody,” Chris Demko of Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving told He lost his daughter to a drunk driver four years ago.

But that’s the bare minimum.

We need to start valuing the lives of other people as much as we value a margarita or a rum and Coke. We need to realize that taking an Uber home from a party isn’t an admission of defeat. We need to decide that putting safety ahead of a party is not the worst thing that can happen.

The worst thing that can happen when you mix alcohol and a car is that someone dies, and that happens every single day.

Lori Falce is the Tribune-Review Community Engagement Editor.
You can contact Lori at [email protected] .

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