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Globe Editorial

Driving: It shouldn’t pay to hit and run

Anthony Galluccio waited a day to turn himself in. Anthony Galluccio waited a day to turn himself in.
October 13, 2009

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When State Senator Anthony Galluccio was charged last week with leaving the scene of an accident, the incident called attention not just to his troubled driving history but also to a disturbing quirk in state law: Drunk drivers who get into fender-benders often have an incentive not to stop.

Galluccio has not said whether he was drinking when he struck another vehicle in Cambridge on Oct. 4 and then drove off, but his record has fueled widespread speculation on the subject. He had been convicted of drunk driving in 1984 and again in 1997. (He received a pardon for the earlier offense.) After last week’s crash, the senator didn’t turn himself in until the next day. He later issued a statement saying he had panicked and left “because of my driving history.’’ He also said he had no reason to believe anyone was hurt. (One person in the other vehicle was treated for minor injuries and released.)

The penalties for a driver who leaves the scene of an accident that causes only property damage are relatively light - a fine of $20 to $200, a possible jail sentence of two weeks to two years, or both, plus a potential license suspension of 60 days. In contrast, a second DUI conviction generally carries up to 2 1/2 years in jail, with a mandatory minimum of 60 days, along with a yearlong license suspension. Diversion programs can reduce the penalties. But for a drunk driver with a previous conviction, it still pays to leave an accident scene and sober up at home.

Galluccio deserves a tough sentence. And whether he was drinking or not, he shouldn’t be driving now. In the meantime, the Legislature should ramp up the penalties for hit-and-run convictions so that drunk drivers aren’t rewarded for fleeing.

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