Suspended drivers represent a small minority of all motorists but are involved in a disproportionately large number of serious highway crashes in Maine, the Maine Sunday Telegram reported.
After analyzing records from a statewide database of 160,000 motor-vehicle crashes from 2003 to 2006, the newspaper concluded that the chances that someone will die in crashes involving suspended drivers is six times greater than when properly licensed drivers crash.
While only 1.4 percent of all drivers in those 160,000 crashes had a suspended or revoked license, they accounted for 4.2 percent of drivers in crashes where someone was killed or seriously injured.
Suspended drivers are 10 times more likely than legal drivers to have been using drugs or alcohol at the time of a crash. For every 1,000 suspended drivers involved in crashes, about 270 had been using drugs or alcohol, compared with 27 out of every 1,000 licensed drivers involved in accidents.
“The accident and death statistics in Maine resulting from suspended-driver crashes are truly astonishing, and very sad when realizing that many of these accidents could have been prevented,” said David Henderson, executive director of the Safety & Health Council of Northern New England, a traffic safety advocacy group. “These statistics reveal a major public safety issue that must be addressed.”
The issue of fatal crashes involving drivers who were under suspension surfaced more than two years ago when a trucker with a suspended license and a long record of driving infractions slammed into a car on the Maine Turnpike, killing the driver, Tina Turcotte. Lawmakers responded by enacting Tina’s Law, which increased jail terms for some of the state’s worst drivers.
Despite efforts by legislators, state bureaucrats and police to keep suspended drivers off the road, the newspaper said the dangers they pose still persist. At any given time, according to state estimates, about 2 percent, or 20,000, of Maine’s 1 million or so driver’s licenses are suspended.
Gov. John Baldacci said the state has made improvements that address the problem.
“The state has made great strides in recent years to stop suspended drivers from driving on Maine’s roadways,” Baldacci said. “There is always room to improve our efforts, but the state police are clearly dedicated to this effort and will continue to crack down on suspended drivers.”
The Telegram said its investigation was prompted by a series of high-profile fatalities involving suspended drivers. They included a May 2004 crash in Carmel that killed three women and four children from South Portland and a December 2006 crash in Poland that left six people dead.
Information from: Portland Press Herald,
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