New law too late to avert a tragedy

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If we had any doubts about the wisdom of Tina’s Law, enacted in April, they were erased last week when we learned that a Bath man who caused a fatal accident on I-295 was driving without a valid license and had six previous license suspensions.

The Portland Press Herald reported Friday that John P. Allen had a long record of driving violations dating back at least 20 years. Bluntly, Allen has been a menace and a threat to the public for a long time.

Harold Weisbein Jr., of Topsham, a professor of business administration at Southern Maine Community College, was killed when his SUV was rear-ended by a vehicle operated by Allen.

With his death, Maine lost another productive, law-abiding citizen to a reckless scofflaw.

Unfortunately, it’s not the first time.

Last summer, 40-year-old Tina Turcotte of Scarborough was killed when her car was crushed from behind by a tractor-trailer in a construction zone on the Maine Turnpike in Hallowell. The truck driver, Scott Hewitt, had more than 60 convictions and 23 license suspensions and had been involved in another fatal truck-car accident 11 years earlier.

Hewitt, of Caribou, still faces a variety of charges, including manslaughter.

The outrage over Turcotte’s death prompted the Legislature to pass a new law, which broadened the use of mandatory minimum sentences and created a new crime of operating after habitual offender revocation.

Beginning in August, courts can impose penalties of up to $5,000 and five years in prison on certain habitual offenders who cause an accident in which another person is injured. A habitual offender causing an accident in which another person is killed could get 10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines.

Unfortunately, neither Hewitt or Allen will be eligible for the stiffer penalties. Tina’s Law does not take effect until August.

Incarcerating people for long periods of time is expensive. But, as recent history in Maine shows, there appears to be little other way of keeping these potential killers off our roadways.

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