Beverly Beckham

Where’s the outrage over drunk drivers?

By Beverly Beckham
Globe Columnist / June 26, 2011

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There are ways to get drunk drivers off the roads. Revoke their licenses. Impound their cars. Lock them up. Make them wear clothing that marks them as terrorists.

Because that’s what they are.

We are waging a war on the other side of the world because we are afraid of bombs going off on planes, trains, and subways and harming us here. To thwart this, our soldiers fight while we submit to pat downs, people pawing through our bags, inspecting our computers, X-raying and searching us at airports, sports events, concerts, and many public buildings.

All to keep us safe.

But talk of getting tough on drunk drivers — installing Breathalyzers in cars and forcing someone to prove he isn’t drunk before he gets behind the wheel, of permanently revoking the licenses of people who drive drunk — and all you hear about are the rights of the driver.

All Maureen Howard hears is silence in the place where her oldest daughter should be. Maura was killed by a repeat drunk driver on July 31, 1994, when she was 19 years old.

Lacey Packer was 10 when a repeat drunk driver killed her. Donna McEwen was 37, married just 2 1/2 years. Lisa Tammaro was 19 and standing by her car. Heidi Wood was 16 and riding her bike. William Wilk was 10. Christine Griffiths was 27. Malcolm Kalp, who survived 444 days in captivity during the Iran hostage crisis, was 63.

We live in a culture that has banned smoking in most public spaces, that tells smokers in words and actions that smoking in unacceptable.

Beginning next year, all cigarette packages will have images of the results of smoking: A corpse. A man puffing away although he has a hole in his throat. Graphic stuff that shouts “smoking kills.’’

Drunk drivers kill, too.

“Jackass’’ star Ryan Dunn, 34, who made his fame performing wild stunts on TV and in movies, was killed in suburban Philadelphia last week when he lost control of his 2007 Porsche. A few hours before the 3 a.m. crash, Dunn tweeted a picture of himself drinking with two friends. One of those friends was his passenger, who was burned beyond recognition.

If ever there were a teachable moment, this is it. Pictures of this crash should be shown nationwide.

Right here at home, there’s Frank S. Ceccaroni, 47, of Holliston, an alleged drunk driver with five prior OUI convictions, who, on June 9, led police on a wild chase that started in Stoneham and ended in Medford, where he crashed his car, which police said reached speeds of 130 miles per hour, into the back of a tractor-trailer.

There’s also Jose Avillan, 47, of Mattapan, who police said crashed his white Ford Taurus into the rear end of a minivan in Hyde Park on June 16, injuring his 3-year-old granddaughter. And Anna Missakiane, 26, of Lynn, who police said drove her 2011 Dodge Avenger north on the southbound side of Interstate 93, without its headlights on, at 1 in the morning on June 20, slamming into a Honda Pilot and a motorcycle and injuring two people.

All of them lucky because this time they didn’t kill anyone.

Jennifer Ortiz wasn’t so lucky.

In March, the 24-year-old Framingham mother of two was charged with speeding and driving while intoxicated. She had her license suspended, was court-ordered into an alcohol program, and got her license back on May 24. Authorities say that three weeks later, driving on the Mass. Pike, she crossed all lanes of traffic, careened down an embankment and flipped her car over three times. Her daughters, 6 and 5, who police say weren’t strapped into seats — a crime in itself — were ejected.

Anya, the 6-year-old, died. If Jennifer Ortiz had lost her license for good, if the law said, you drink, you drive, you never drive again, her daughter would be alive.

Maureen Howard’s daughter would be alive, too. And Lacey Packer. And hundreds of thousands of others

Driving drunk isn’t a mistake. It’s a crime. In the past 10 years, in Massachusetts alone, police have made more than 200,000 arrests.

But second-hand smoke enrages us more.

Canton resident Beverly Beckham can be reached at