David Helms of Bethesda, Maryland, will serve seven years in jail and three years probation. The sentence was issued following his guilty plea last month to one count of DWI and manslaughter related to the July 11 car crash on an Interstate 70 ramp that killed Northwest High School teacher Leonard Cave, 61, and critically injured Carolyn Gype, also a teacher at the school. Gype had to learn how to walk again.
Helms’s blood alcohol level at the time had registered .14—nearly twice the state’s legal limit, and many Maryland residents have expressed anger that the charge was manslaughter rather than murder. Under Maryland law, however, killing someone because of drunken driving is consider manslaughter and not murder. 10 years in prison is Maryland’s maximum sentence for a vehicular manslaughter conviction.
The 44-year-old Bethesda resident had been driving his Dodge Ram pickup truck on the I-70 ramp to Route 355 when he lost control of his truck. His truck struck the driver’s side of the Sienna minivan that Cave and Gype were riding.
Helms’s license had already been suspended prior to the fatal accident. He also had prior convictions in Florida for burglary, battery, and larceny, as well as a controlled and dangerous substance conviction in California and a conviction for resisting arrest.
Here are some statistics on drunk driving:
• Forty-one percent of 1,672 motorcycle operators who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2004 had BAC levels of .08 g/dl or higher. Sixty percent of those killed in single-vehicle crashes on weekend nights had BAC levels of .08 g/dl or higher. (NHTSA, 2005 )
• The majority of those who reported alcohol-related DUI in the 12 months prior to a national survey are not alcohol dependent or alcohol abusers. In 2000, 37% of the Blacks, 38% of the Hispanics, 29% of Whites, 44% of the Native Americans/Alaskan Natives, 39% of Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, 22% of the Asians and 28% of those of Mixed race who report committing DUI in the past year are alcohol abusers or dependent; all the others who drove under the influence are not. (Caetano and McGrath, 2005)
• In 2004, 30 percent of all fatal crashes during the week were alcohol-related, compared to 51 percent on weekends. For all crashes, the alcohol involvement rate was 5 percent during the week and 12 percent during the weekend. (NHTSA, 2005)
• For fatal crashes occurring from midnight to 3:00 AM, 77 percent involved alcohol in 2003. The next most dangerous time period for alcohol-related crash deaths were 9 PM to midnight (64 percent of fatal crashes involved alcohol), followed by 3 AM to 6 AM (60 percent of fatal crashes involved alcohol). (NHTSA, 2004)
• The rate of alcohol involvement in fatal crashes is more than 3 times as high at night as during the day (60 percent vs. 18 percent). For all crashes, the alcohol involvement rate is 5 times as high at night (16 percent vs. 3 percent). (NHTSA, 2005)
• The impact of alcohol involvement increases with injury severity. Alcohol-involved crashes accounted for 10 percent of property damage only crash costs, 21 percent of nonfatal injury crashes; and 46 percent of fatal injury crash costs. (NHTSA, 2002)
• Alcohol-related fatalities are caused primarily by the consumption of beer (80 percent) followed by liquor/wine at 20 percent. (Runge, 2002)
If you or someone you love has been critically injured in a motor vehicle-related accident because of a drunk driver, please contact the personal injury law firm of Lebowitz and Mzhen. We also have filed wrongful death claims for clients who have lost loved ones in drunk driving accidents. Contact Lebowitz and Mzhen for your free consultation.
Drunken driver gets 7 years in death of Northwest teacher, Gazette.net, March 7, 2007
General Statistics, MADD
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