Traumatic brain injury victims, and their families, almost always find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the victim cannot be left without medical attention and special care — this is the solid, immovable truth. On the other, the family of this individual is often left scrambling for enough funds to pay those hospital and special care bills.
When West Virginia legislators drafted Senate Bill 657, they included a stipulation that would have raised the fees for drunk drivers involved in motor vehicle accidents by $50. The money, estimated at around $190,000, would have gone towards the care of traumatic brain injury victims in the state.
Proponents pointed out that a majority of traumatic brain injuries occur as a result of car accidents and that many of these accidents are caused by the negligence of drunk drivers.
Still, in early March, Senate Financial Committee Chairman Walt Helmick asked that these additional DUI charges be taken out of the legislation. In defense of his request, Helmick pointed to the bad economy and claimed a hesitance to sign off on any additional fees — even for drunk drivers.
The measure’s proponents claimed that higher penalty fees would encourage individuals to think twice before getting into their car after a night of drinking, in addition to helping those affected by brain injuries. Still, Helmick wasn’t alone in his opinion. Even some legislators who saw the benefits of the proposed DUI fee increase hesitated to call for a raise in fees.
Ultimately, the bill moved forward without increased DUI penalties.