Ring in the New Year with Good Sense

By State Senator Bill Diamond

The holiday season for many people is a joyous time filled with fun, family and friends, and I hope you are all enjoying it. I wish for everyone a New Year’s Day filled with good times, enjoying a relaxing time with friends and family.

For many people, part of the celebration involves a few drinks at a holiday party or on New Year’s Eve. At all times and especially at this time of year, it is important everyone uses their good sense to avoid mixing those drinks with driving. I know that there are many occasions where the temptation to drink and drive may be present — holiday parties, New Year’s celebrations, and long evenings with family and friends. Driving while intoxicated has dire consequences. Drinking and driving is not worth hurting (or even killing) yourself or others.

In Maine, a person driving a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or more is guilty of a criminal offense known as Operating Under the Influence (OUI). Following an arrest, based solely on the police report and BAC test results, the Secretary of State will immediately suspend the driver’s license.

BAC is a precise way of stating the amount of alcohol in a quantity of blood. BAC can be measured with a breath test or a blood test. If a driver has a BAC of .08% or more, he/she can be found guilty by a court on this basis alone, without further evidence. This suspension takes place prior to any court appearance, so while waiting for the court date the driver will be prevented from driving.

For drivers under 21 years of age, Maine has a special law. If they are found operating, or attempting to operate, a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in their blood, their license will be suspended for one year. If they refuse the test, the driver will lose their license for at least 18 months. If there is a passenger under 21 years of age, an additional 180-day suspension will be imposed.

It is important to remember that a driver’s license is not a right guaranteed under our Constitution, it is a privilege. The privilege to drive is issued by the state and it can be withdrawn by the state, so be careful. A little advance planning concerning the amount you drink or arranging for a designated driver can save thousands of dollars, and possibly even your life.

Remembering a little fun with family or friends should remain just that — a little fun. And remember too that drinking isn’t the only thing that impairs your ability to drive. We have tough distracted driver laws here in Maine, so be careful texting or talking on your cell phone while driving as well. Most adults rely on their driver’s license for work and if things get out of hand it can put life, limb and employment at risk.

I’d like to wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year, and let’s all hope that 2011 is the year when the economy finally gets back on its feet. If you have any problems with the state please contact me at my office at the State House at 287-1515 or visit my website, www.mainesenate.org/diamond to send me an e-mail.  It’s always good to hear from you.

Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis as Senator of District 12.

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