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Massachusetts ranked 22 out of 51 among all states and the District of Columbia for its handling of drunk drivers in a recent study.

Ask people who have been charged with drunk driving what they think about Pennsylvania's laws and they may well say the penalties are very harsh. Ask people who have been injured or lost loved ones in accidents caused by drunk drivers and they are likely to say that the laws are not harsh enough.

Now an impartial report takes a look at how Pennsylvania stacks up against other states in its handling of drunk driving offenses. The findings are consistent with the views of the victims of impaired driving crashes. Out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania was ranked number 48 for its lack of strict policies governing driving under the influence.

Prevention and punishment reviewed in report

WalletHub conducted the study in which both preventive and punitive measures were evaluated. The scores from these two areas were blended to determine the overall rankings. Pennsylvania's placement in the results varied quite little across all factors. The state came in at number 46 out of 51 for its criminal penalties and 45 out of 51 for its prevention efforts.

Several factors affected the state's poor showing. Pennsylvania is one of few states that does not move impaired driving offenses up to felony charges at some point. The lack of any minimum jail time or loss of driving privileges for many first-time offenders also played into the final results.

A look at Pennsylvania's DUI penalties

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation indicates that the state has multiple levels of consequences for drunk drivers. These are based upon two factors-the driver's blood alcohol content and the number of any previous offenses, if any.

The tiered approach still requires no mandatory use of ignition interlock devices for people after a first DUI conviction. Only drivers with BAC levels of 0.10 percent or higher may face suspension of their drivers' licenses for first offenses. Ignition interlock devices are not mandated in any first-time convictions.

Deaths in Pennsylvania caused by drunk drivers

In Bucks County alone, 74 people died in drunk driving crashes between 2010 and 2014 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. Across the state during that same time period, a minimum of 345 people were killed each year in these accidents. Some years saw the number of fatalities reach 424.

Every death in a drunk driving accident is preventable by the simple act of a person who has been drinking choosing not to drive. Sadly, that choice is not made often enough. When these senseless tragedies occur, Pennsylvania residents should reach out to a lawyer for help in seeking compensation. This may be one more way that the message can get across that drunk driving really must stop.

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