The MBTA Late Night Service Cancelation Will Affect Drunk Driving

Since 1983, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has provided free rides every New Year’s Eve in Boston. This originated due to the high incidence of drunk driving accidents in the city during this holiday. In addition to increased punishment for drunk driving, this act lowered tragic accident rates this time of year and helped the state take the issue more seriously. However, offering free rides during the holiday is just one measure the MBTA has taken to reduce accidents.

MBTA’s Late Night Program Termination

In a similar effort, the MBTA extended its transportation services to late-night, limited access rides offered each weekend. Unfortunately, the city is struggling to understand the impact of this program and is riddled with questions regarding its value: Is the program cost effective? Does the program even need a closer look at its impact on Boston citizens?

The late-night weekend services offered on select transit lines are slated to end on March 18. Though the review board must consider its budget and the community’s interest, there are several benefits worth considering:

  • The program serves different populations. Late-night traveling is particularly suited to university students, shift workers, and those who hold jobs with odd hours. The MBTA service keeps these individuals off unsafe streets when drunk drivers are often making their way home. Furthermore, it specifically supports minority and low income riders who otherwise have no means of safe transportation at these times. Cutting the program will unfairly and primarily affect these passengers.
  • It helps develop Boston’s urban center. When employees can seek opportunities outside of a traditional 9-5 shift, it encourages economic growth, enables individuals to work more, and grants access to stores and other amenities that are not in their immediate neighborhoods.
  • It keeps drivers and pedestrians safe. This is arguably the most important benefit of this program. Individuals who stay out and drink have a reliable and accessible way to get home, and pedestrians do not have to walk several blocks late at night to get home or clock in.

As the city and MBTA continue to look at this program (and consider rebooting it in the future), they will carefully reflect on how many lives they can save and whether or not it is an effective public service.

The Potential Impact on Drunk Driving

Though many regrettable accidents took place during New Year’s celebrations, the city was alerted to the serious issue of drunk driving. The late-night program is expensive and officials may not feel enough people take advantage of the service, but it can still save lives. Here are a few pertinent details to consider:

  • In 2011, 241 drunk driving arrests were made in Boston. That same year in Washington D.C., a city with a similar population size, 1,633 arrests were made. Though this number is significantly smaller, it calls into question the city’s commitment to pulling over and arresting drunk drivers. The city needs greater deterrents and offerings like the MBTA’s late night program to keep residents safe.
  • According to 2009 data, 66% of vehicle fatalities between midnight and 3 a.m. involved drinking and driving. Since this is when the service is available, it could lower this percentage significantly.

The city has struggled to make drunk driving a priority, though options like free rides on New Year’s and late-night programs can keep people off dangerous roads or discourage them from driving drunk. When Boston citizens have to find alternate forms of transportation during these high-risk times, drunk driving rates can (and will) increase.

Drunk driving is patently negligent, and the consequences are often catastrophic. When this happens, insurance likely will not cover medical costs or long-term recovery demands. In light of such damages, working with an attorney is often the only way to find justice.

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