In Madison, Alabama, Julie Finley, has plead not guilty to charges of driving under the influence and reckless driving. A trial date has also been set for August 22 in front of Madison County District Judge Patricia Demos. While this might seem like an ordinary day in a courthouse, there is one exceptional factor in this case.
Mrs. Finley is the wife of Madison Mayor Paul Finley.
The alleged DUI occurred back on January 18. According to WHNT19 News, Finley was pulled over for driving 103 miles per hour on a highway with a 65 mph limit. The official ticket indicated she refused a Blood Alcohol Content test, although a note on a nearby ticket listed a .273 PBT, or preliminary breath test.
This is not the first time there has been a high profile DUI charge in Madison. In 2016, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Paul Barnett was charged with a DUI. Barnett was moved into a support role with the DA office but was otherwise allowed to keep his job.
These issues aren’t unique to Madison County, or even Alabama. Nor are those in the public eye the only people more likely to be charged with DUI or related crimes. In 2016, an average of 28 people died per day as a result of drunk-driving deaths.
Traditionally, summer is a particularly dangerous time, with a significant uptick in accidents on the road. This is, in part, a result of the increased number of drivers, both alcohol impaired and not, on the roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Fatal accidents are also more common in summer, occurring almost nearly two times more in summer months
In recent years there has also been a steady increase of non-alcohol related accidents, particularly as the result of distracted driving. As of 2015, almost two-thirds of Americans owned smartphones. Unfortunately, the number of distracted driving accidents has been increasing along with smartphone use.
According to the most recent data, 10,265 people died in 2015 as the result of a drunk driving accident, while almost 3,500 people were killed and 391,000 people were injured in car accidents that involved a distracted driver.
To put this into perspective, cars with degraded brake pads cause an estimated 11,144 accidents per year. Usually, these crashes are the result of a mechanical failure caused by poor maintenance, such as neglecting to replace your brake pads every 25,000 to 50,000 miles depending on driving styles.
And when it comes to drunk, reckless, or distracted driving, no one is immune.
For Madison’s Mayor Finley, the severity of the accusations is clear. In a statement released at the time of his wife’s charges, Finley said: “In these days ahead, we will seek healing and understanding and do not even attempt to hide or downplay the seriousness of what has occurred.”