This New Year’s Eve, Put a Cork in Maine Drunk Driving Risks

New Year’s Eve signals the end of a year, but too often and for too many on Maine roads, it signals the end of life. On New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, nearly half of motor vehicle fatalities are attributed to alcohol-impaired drivers, compared to the annual average, which is about 30 percent. That’s according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) – and it doesn’t include the number who survive, but may suffer permanent, disabling injury. Our Portland drunk driving injury attorneys encourage all drivers to be safe and sober this holiday, especially given our state ranks No. 9 for the most drunk driving deaths per 100 million miles traveled.

Complicating matters this year is the fact voters in 2016 approved legalized recreational marijuana sales (now codified in IB 2015, c. 5). Although implementation of the law has moved at a snail’s pace and there is no business yet approved to sell the drug commercially if it’s not for medicinal use, it is legal for one adult to give it to another. (Some marijuana dispensaries in Portland and elsewhere in Maine have used this loophole to “give” away marijuana, yet charge a delivery fee – the legality of which under state law is questionable, as reported by WGME 13.) The bottom line is that more people in Maine – and thus more drivers – may be under the influence of marijuana.

One recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found traffic accidents have risen about 6 percent in states that have legalized recreational marijuana compared to neighboring states that still outlaw the drug. Random roadside tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that about 22 percent of motorists showed evidence of drug use. In Washington state (which, along with Maine, is one of eight that has legalized recreational marijuana), one-fourth of all traffic deaths in 2016 involved drivers who mixed drugs and alcohol – most commonly alcohol with marijuana, the latter of which is known to slow driver reaction times, impair visual perception and blunt cognitive judgment.

Portland Maine Car Accident Lawyers Urge Caution on New Year’s Eve

The NHTSA reports that 733 people died in drunk driving crashes in one recent December.  Over the last handful of years, there have been numerous reported fatal DUI crashes in Maine on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

For instance on December 31, 2017, a man died in a Maine DUI crash in Milton. He’d been in the front passenger seat with a 44-year-old woman at the wheel, who lost control, left the highway lane and rolled over, ejecting and killing the passenger instantly. The woman was later charged with felony aggravated driving under the influence. Twelve months earlier, on January 1, 2017, a 30-year-old Farmingdale woman allegedly crashed into the back of a vehicle parked on the roadside after that driver became ill. The impact killed the passenger inside the parked vehicle.

Avoid a Deadly Maine DUI Crash This New Year

Imbibing on New Year’s Eve is tradition, and one that for most poses no significant risk (beyond maybe a hangover). As our Portland drunk driving injury lawyers have seen time and again, the problem is when those who drink or consume marijuana choose to drive drunk.

To avoid these tragic outcomes, MADD recommends:

  • Designating a sober driver ahead of time if you plan to drink.
  • Downloading a ride-sharing app or calling for a taxi. This time of year is big business for taxi drivers, so access shouldn’t be an issue. Get dropped off at your destination so that your driving drunk isn’t even an option. It may cost you a few bucks, but it’s a whole lot cheaper than a DUI arrest, which averages about $10,000 in costs – and that’s assuming you don’t crash and hurt someone else or yourself.
  • If a friend is drinking, don’t let them drive. Be non-confrontational, but recognize it’s not rude – it’s life-or-death. Have a friend or two help. Trick them if you must. Hide their keys.
  • Do not get in the car with a drunk driver – ever.
  • If you spot a suspected drunk driver on the roads, call 911.
  • If you’re hosting a party, make it clear upfront that guests need to have a safe way home. Make arrangements ahead of time. Collect keys at the door. Taper booze service as the night wears on. Serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks. Remember that both licensed vendors and social hosts can be held liable by third parties in a Maine DUI injury or wrongful death case if the defendant negligently served alcohol to a minor or visibly intoxicated person. Under the umbrella of Maine’s Liquor Liability Act, these are referred to as dram shop and social host liability laws. Social host liability damages (excluding medical expenses) are capped at $350,000 per case.

If you are injured in a Maine DUI accident, contact our dedicated personal injury attorneys and wrongful death lawyers in Portland to outline your rights and determine compensation.

Portland DUI accident victims can contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Sobering Facts: Drunk Driving in Maine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More Blog Entries:

Bangor Alcohol Ordinance Aims to Reduce Drunk Driving Accidents, April 17, 2018, Maine DUI Accident Attorney Blog