Another Drunk Driver Without Insurance - And Response (2)

Saturday, September 21, 2013 - by Joe DeGaetano

On August 3rd, 35-year-old Maria Leyva-Martinez drove her vehicle across the center lines on Highway 153 and killed a man.  He was a husband and a father of three.  She (Martinez) was drunk and uninsured.  She has been charged with driving under the influence, vehicular homicide, reckless endangerment, failure to maintain lane, driving left of center line, violation of the financial responsibility law, and driving without driver’s license/expired license.


This apparently was not Ms. Martinez’s first run-in with the law.  In April of this year, a Maria L. Martinez (also age 35) was charged with violation of the financial responsibility law and expired registration.  In May, Ms. Martinez was given a golden opportunity:  those charges were dismissed “on good behavior” (meaning that as long as she didn’t break any more laws for a period of time, she would not go to jail, pay a fine, or even have a criminal record).  Tragically, Ms. Martinez wasted that opportunity, continued to drive without insurance, and compounded her recklessness by driving drunk.

This happens far too often:  in 2010, 10,288 people were killed in drunk driving crashes in this country.  That equates, on average, to a person being killed by a drunk driver every 51 minutes.  Drunk driving accounts for 1 in 3 deaths on American roadways each year.  Many drunk drivers are repeat offenders.  According to a report issued by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, there were a total of 137,183 arrests for DUI between 2002 and 2007.  Twenty-one percent of those offenders were re-arrested for violating the DUI law at least two times during that time period, and 34% of the repeat offenses occurred within 0-6 months of the original arrest date.  Drunk drivers are one of the greatest dangers on our roads. To add insult to injury, the people irresponsible enough to drive drunk are often the same people driving with little or no liability insurance.  

Under Tennessee law, a driver is only required to carry liability insurance in the amount of $25,000 for injury to or death of one person, $50,000 for injury to or death of two or more people in any one accident, and $10,000 for damage to property in any one accident.  In a wreck with even moderate injuries, those coverage limits can be consumed very quickly by medical bills and lost wages.  In a serious wreck with catastrophic injuries, the minimum liability insurance required by law may cover only a small fraction of the medical bills and other expenses of the innocent victim and his or her family.  To make matters worse, many drivers do not carry any liability insurance at all.  And, in the case of Ms. Martinez and others, even a prior citation and a trip to court is not enough to get their attention and cause them to take basic responsibility.

I don’t sell insurance, but I always give my family and friends this advice:  to protect yourself from the countless people like Ms. Martinez who drive drunk and without insurance, buy as much uninsured/underinsured ("UM") insurance coverage as you can afford.  In Tennessee, insurance companies are required by law to offer UM coverage in the amount equal to your automobile liability coverage limits. For example, if you purchase an auto insurance policy that provides you with $300,000 of liability coverage for bodily injuries caused by you, then your insurance company must offer you the option of buying $300,000 of UM coverage.  Compared to health insurance and life insurance, UM insurance is very cheap:  even a million-dollar policy may cost only $30 a month.  Until people such as Ms. Martinez stop drunk-driving and ignoring the insurance laws, this is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family.

Joe DeGaetano


* * * 

Check the arrest reports for our region on any given day and you will find scores of individuals that have an invalid license, no insurance, etc.  It's epidemic and growing worse.  I doubt if these individuals have health insurance either. 

In Tennessee, if a driver without insurance hits you, the judge will charge them with the responsibility of paying you back for damages, but it means nothing at that point because if they ignore you, nothing happens to them. You have to pay to take them to civil court. You have to pay to have the court summons delivered to them. If your insurance company decides to take them to court, it might take months or even close to the end of the statute of limitations before they act. 

I was at a local Tennessee traffic court with a friend a few years ago and the judge granted each one of them that were there for financial responsibility charges an extended period of time to obtain insurance and bring proof back to court.  A few of them had been cited in the same court just a few months before for the same violation. The had received a "pass" on the previous occasion also. 

You want to know about my record? I have never driven any vehicle I owned without proper license, registration, plates, decal, insurance, etc. I thought it was the law and never considered it an option. 

Ted Ladd
East Ridge 

* * * 

A prosecutor friend of mine told me that it's almost impossible to put people in jail, since jail space is at such a premium. 

If we are going to have these harsh penalties, we should have the capability of punishment. We would need to double our prison space to incarcerate all of these DUI offenses.  

Steve Daugherty

The Message Of The GOP Is Hate And Division

Maybe it is me.  Maybe it is me that thinks the likes of Donald Trump or Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and some of the others represent the voting public.  I noticed and watched, again, with horror, that another shooting and killing happened in Colorado yesterday.  Couple that with some of the hysterical rhetoric of the Republican Party and wonder, or I do, just what is happening ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Cometh ‘The Black Dog’

I am one of 350 million people in the world who suffers from clinical depression. The doctors trace it back to my first decade of the 21 st century when constant surgeries and infections knocked me loopy but the more I have found, I believe I am more like Sir Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and pro football star Terry Bradshaw – I think I have had it all my life. Today it ... (click for more)

Shots Fired From Vehicle; Police Locate Car And Arrest 5 Youths With Guns

Chattanooga Police said shots were fired from a vehicle on Friday afternoon, then officers located the vehicle and arrested five youths with guns.   That comes after a spate of shooting violence in which two women were killed and several other people injured by bullets.   Just after 4 p.m. Friday,  officers with the Chattanooga Police Department responded ... (click for more)

Man Struck And Killed On Highway 27 Friday Night

A man was struck and killed on Highway 27 on Friday night. The Chattanooga Police Department responded to reports of a pedestrian struck on Highway 27 Northbound, near the Main Street exit around 8:30 p.m. A male pedestrian was struck by a single vehicle. He  succumbed to his injuries on scene.  It is unknown why he was attempting to cross the highway. The name ... (click for more)

UTC Defeats Fordham, 50-20, in FCS First Round Game

 "UTC has one of the best defensive lines we have played against all season ... character guys and no trash talking." -- Fordham Quarterback Kevin Anderson in post game comments    Senior quarterback Jacob Huesman threw for 211 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 154 yards to lead UTC to a 50-20 victory against visiting Fordham ... (click for more)

Red Bank Comeback Trips Hixson In Vandergriff Duals

The last time Red Bank's wrestling Lions faced the Hixson Wildcats in the Hixson gym, Hixson won a close match to earn a spot in the State Duals. These same two teams squared off at Hixson Saturday afternoon in the championship match of the Vandergriff Duals, but the results were different as the Lions rallied for a 34-31 win. Red Bank had won its pool at Hixson Middle ... (click for more)