Philadelphia Personal Injury Attorneys

Don’t Become a Holiday Victim of Drunken Driving

December 30, 2008
Delaware County Times Guest Columnist

The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends – dinners, parties, evenings out. Some revelers try to keep the good times going with alcohol. Too much of a good thing can turn lethal, especially when someone makes the reckless decision to get behind the wheel…

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is one of the deadliest for alcohol-related crashes. More than 1,200 people die in drunken-driving crashes over the holidays. In Pennsylvania last year, there were 654 traffic accidents and 20 fatalities related to alcohol use taking place from Thanksgiving through Christmas, according to the Pennsylvania DUI Association. And DUI accidents caused by 21- to 24-year-old drivers, and teen drinking, are at epidemic levels nationwide.

Drunken driving is one of the most serious dangers we face during the holiday season, but it’s also one of the most preventable. The most important thing I can tell you, you already should know: If you drink, don’t drive, no matter how little you think you’ve had.

But how much is too much is a question we don’t ask often enough from the drunken driver who is a danger to himself and others, or from the tavern owner who knowingly serves him more even after he’s visibly intoxicated, or anyone serving any alcohol to a minor.

As a trial attorney who represents the victims of drunken drivers against the bars that overserve them, I deal with these questions every day. One real life case that stands out this time of year is the story of a 43-year-old single mother from Delaware County on her way home from a holiday party when she was hit head-on and killed by a drunk driver. The driver, whose blood-alcohol level was 2.5 times the legal limit, was hurt but recovered. He had crossed the center line and didn’t even apply his brakes. The victim, a single parent nurse who spent her career taking care of others, left behind two children who are now parentless.

As attorney for the victim’s family, I was able to obtain a recovery for the kids so they can have a life as good as it could be, despite their loss. Most importantly, though, such lawsuits send a message to bar owners on the consequences of serving alcohol to a customer who’s visibly intoxicated or without checking their age.

We were even able to force the bar to make a contribution to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. Money went to the kids, but no award can ever bring their mom back.

This case demonstrates the importance of our civil-justice system, which is part of our constitutional architecture, but which corporate America, including insurance companies, would like to shut down. We need a healthy civil-justice system to punish negligent bar owners to keep our roads and communities safer.

Our police do an excellent job bringing dangerous drunken drivers to criminal court. In a partnership with the courts, the police, trial attorneys and their clients and organizations like MADD, we can make holiday celebration safer. Without these important institutions at work, we’d be reading about even more of these tragedies in the news every day, especially on Jan. 2.

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