Will harsher penalties reduce drunk driving crashes in Rhode Island?

Proposed legislation in Rhode Island would create stricter penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence.

Recently, the Rhode Island Senate unanimously passed a bill that would toughen the penalties imposed on drunk drivers in certain situations.

The bill provides for lengthier prison sentences and higher fines if a drunk driver causes injury or death in a motor vehicle accident in Rhode Island.

If the bill is passed into law, drunk drivers who cause a fatality could be sentenced to 30 years in jail, as opposed to the current 15-year maximum jail sentence. The maximum fine for those who drive under the influence and cause a fatality would also increase from $10,000 to $20,000.

In addition, the penalties would increase for individuals convicted of driving under the influence who cause "serious bodily harm." In such cases, they could face a fine of up to $10,000, up to 20 years in jail and license revocation for three to five years.

The proposed legislation also provides for a new crime, referred to as driving under the influence, resulting in personal injury. If convicted, an individual could face up to three years in jail and his or her driver's license could be suspended for up to one year.

The hope is that these heightened penalties will cause people to think twice before getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. The Rhode Island House of Representatives will now consider the bill.

Drunk driving collisions a serious problem in Rhode Island

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 24 people died in motor vehicle accidents caused by drunk drivers in Rhode Island in 2012. In total, these deaths accounted for 38 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state that year.

In addition, 98 people suffered injuries in drunk driving accidents in Rhode Island in 2012. In all, drunk drivers caused 273 motor vehicle accidents in the state that year.

The percentage of traffic fatalities caused by drunk drivers is significantly higher in Rhode Island than across the country. In the United States, drunk drivers are responsible for about 31 percent of all traffic fatalities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2010, over 10,220 people died in auto accidents caused by drunk drivers in the United States.

Drunk drivers who cause auto accidents in Rhode Island should be held responsible for the harm caused in the collision. If you or someone you love has been injured in a drunk driving crash in Rhode Island, do not hesitate to contact an experienced personal injury attorney. A legal professional will ensure your rights are protected and you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled.

Keywords: drunk driving, accidents, Rhode Island