Roadside memorial for Daniel Haley, age 24, Rt. 116 Amherst/Hadley border
Every time somebody tells me to just "wait until there's a tragedy" so town and state officials will get deadly serious and do something about the prevalence of alcohol induced mayhem in our Happy Valley, I cringe.
In fact, I get downright angry.
Because I know that tragedy has already occurred, snatching from friends and family a promising young life just starting to hit stride.
Daniel Haley, age 24, was only weeks away from graduating UMass/Amherst, an endeavor he worked hard to accomplish -- covering both the study requirements of a chemical engineering major as well as working to cover the cost of higher education.
He was killed by Brittini Benton of Sunderland, also age 24, who was driving the wrong way on Rt 116 in Hadley, while under the influence of alcohol. A lot of it! (BAC of 0.179, more than twice the legal limit).
A second offense no less.
But Ms. Benton, unlike Daniel Haley, will continue to age. Only now she will do it from the cramped confines of a prison cell. For the next five to seven years.
I asked a family member, great uncle Mike Haley, if he was satisfied with the outcome of the trial and the punishment recently meted out to Ms. Benton by our justice system.
Mr. Haley said the sentencing had brought "some form of closure" but obviously it was a "very hard day for the family." Mike Haley and Daniel's cousin -- who was more like a sister -- read prepared statements and the assistant DA read the statement of Daniel Haley's heartbroken mother.
The sentencing had been delayed three months so Ms. Benton, who became pregnant after the accident, could have her child.
The "system" allowed her back on the road only seven month after the first DUI. The system delayed sentencing for over three months so she could bring a child into the world.
And not all that many years from now, the system will allow Brittini Benton back into a our free society; and who knows, maybe even allow her to drive a car again.
"I only wish Danny had that opportunity," said Mike Haley somberly.
And if Massachusetts made interlock ignition switches mandatory after the FIRST offense for DUI, that alone would have saved him.
Time to close the loopholes