It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon before a driver who had spent the better part of the day drinking came careening down the Clarksville Pike block at 90 miles per hour. The drunk driver’s car sped into oncoming lanes and hit an SUV with four people in it, two of whom were children of 3 years and 10 months old.
The mother of those two children died upon impact and the 10-month-old girl suffered a severe spinal injury. She now can only move her right arm and head. The children’s grandmother and victim’s mother told a judge that the girl was not old enough to learn how to walk, and now she will never be able to.
The driver was found with marijuana in his system and a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .22 percent, which is close to three times the legal driving limit. He pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and was sentenced to three years in prison, with parole available after one year. For some present in the courtroom, the judge was far too lenient considering the damage the driver caused and the lives he ruined with his choices. According to The Tennessean, many feared such a lenient sentencing would not be enough to stop the driver from repeating his mistakes again and ruining even more lives.
Are Tennessee’s Drunk Driving Laws Too Lenient?
For a drunk driver’s first offense, they will receive a Class A misdemeanor in Tennessee. And while there is a mandatory 48 hours of incarceration, a Class A misdemeanor is, at the end of the day, barely more than a ticket. First-time offenders are also required to go to an alcohol safety class or a DUI school. They will be on probation for less than a year and might lose their driver’s license for a period of time. And as long as their BAC was lower than .20, they may have to pay as little as $350 or as much as $1,500. And that’s all. First-time offenders are treated with only slightly harsher punishment than drivers who are caught speeding.
Obviously, if the BAC is higher or there are victims who were injured in a drunk driving accident, the punishments increase in severity. However, a person whose judgement has been impaired by alcohol does not take those things into account. A person who is drinking may just think the worst thing they can get off with is little more than a ticket when getting stopped by a police officer. Tennessee’s drunk driving laws may be too lenient for first-time offenders and may not entirely dissuade them from making similar decisions in the future.
Tennessee Lawmakers Should Do More to Protect Drivers from Drunk Drivers
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 267 victims died last year due to drunk driving, which is almost a third of the total traffic fatalities in Tennessee for 2015. There were 59,208 third-time drunk driving offenders and 17,342 fifth-time offenders who were picked up by police last year. These numbers are far too high and perhaps more severe first-time consequences would help discourage drivers from engaging in drunk driving again.
“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His Beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14