12 beers. 4 Utility Poles. 1 DUI Driver. Zero Electric Power.

drunk driver crashes into utility polesNot long ago we wrote about a drunk driver who hit six cars and a house. The point of the piece was to illustrate how alcohol so completely changes a person’s faculties that he or she can smash six cars – or dozens – without feeling that anything too terrible has happened. That’s why it’s called impairment, and it’s no joke if you happen to be in one of those cars – or the house, for that matter.

An allegedly drunk Massachusetts driver managed to darken a good part of Stoneham recently, by crashing into four utility poles.

Four. That means he crashed into one, and continued to the second, crashed, and continued…

Three of the four poles went down, sending wires into the street and cutting off power in the surrounding area. No one was injured, and the driver was booked for DUI.

The suspect admitted to have been drinking since two p.m. in the afternoon – the arrest happened at one in the morning. He mentioned 12 beers, though he is pleading not guilty.

Which leaves us with just one question: exactly how dangerous is a person who can knock down three utility poles and keep driving? What won’t stop that person? Certainly another car, or a pedestrian. That’s why drunk driving is never a joke.

In an ideal world, Massachusetts would take notice of this demonstration of the power of alcohol on drivers and make a few changes. First and foremost, it should adopt an all-offender ignition interlock law. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. 29 states now mandate the devices for all drunk driving offenses, and are reaping rewards in the form of lower recidivism rates. Another improvement would be a no-refusal law, imposing an ignition interlock term and other penalties if a sobriety test is refused at an OUI stop.

Even if such restrictions cannot prevent every occurrence of drunk driving, they can create an atmosphere in which drivers know that it’s unacceptable to drink 12 beers and then drive. And ignition interlocks in fact do prevent many drunk drivers from repeating their offense – effectively cutting off their power before they can cut off yours.