Effort would toughen penalties for Maine's worst drivers

| 11/30/2005

A pair of Maine state lawmakers wants to get tough on the state’s worst drivers.

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, and Rep. Darlene Curley, R-Scarborough, unveiled legislation Nov. 21 that would allow harsher penalties for multiple driving offenses, including longer license suspensions and jail time.

The effort is in response to a fatal accident this summer on Interstate 95 in Hallowell, ME, involving a tractor-trailer and a car. Trucker Scott Hewitt is blamed for the crash, which killed 40-year-old Tina Turcotte of Scarborough, ME, on July 29.

After the wreck, The Associated Press reported Hewitt has 63 driving convictions and 22 suspensions in Maine and other states. He also had been involved in a previous fatal accident.

Hewitt’s Maine license and registration were both under suspension at the time of the July accident, and there were outstanding warrants for his arrest, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Diamond said more than 8,000 drivers in the state have at least 15 license suspensions, and more than 44,000 have had their licenses suspended five to nine times.

His proposal would require drivers caught with a suspended license to have their vehicles impounded for the duration of the suspension. Drivers with repeated suspensions in a three-year period would have their license revoked for a period ranging from one to 10 years, and could be sent to jail if caught driving during that time.

It would also mandate jail time and fines up to $5,000 for repeat offenders, and raise the penalties for people driving on a suspended license who are involved in an accident that causes injury or death.

The legislation will be discussed during the regular legislative session that begins in January.

Hewitt remains in the Kennebec County Jail awaiting trial on nine misdemeanor charges he faces in connection with the July accident.