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Mock Accidents Not Always Effective, Friend of Killed Teenager Writes

One young man from Norwell is dead and another faces prison after a bad drunk driving accident, the Quincy Patriot Ledger reported March 9. Ryan O’Donnell, 18, was killed in a rollover crash in Norwell March 7. He was a passenger in a vehicle driven by a friend and former classmate, William Ecclestone, also 18 and from Norwell. Ecclestone is accused of being intoxicated when he drove his car into a tree, causing it to roll over. Ecclestone suffered minor injuries and was able to leave the vehicle on his own, but O’Donnell died at the hospital of his injuries. Police say Ecclestone showed signs of intoxication and failed a sobriety test. He is charged with motor vehicle manslaughter, vehicular homicide by negligent driving, OUI, reckless driving, speeding and leaving a marked lane.

This terrible accident caught my attention, as a Massachusetts intoxicated driving defense attorney, because the crash was very serious, but also because the young men were friends who had graduated from the same small, close-knit high school. I was interested to see a related opinion piece written by another 2009 graduate of Norwell High School, Nicholas Russo, who is now at Lyndon State College in Vermont. Russo said the high school had staged a mock crash when they were seniors, which was “a carbon copy” of the one that took O’Donnell’s life. The students watched as firefighters worked to free students from the mock crash and took one away in a body bag, while the student’s father watched. Afterward, he said, students swore to an adviser that they couldn’t imagine driving drunk after seeing that.

Russo suspected at the time that this was not true — and less than a year later, he has some evidence that he was right. Too many people think it can’t happen to them, he wrote. He ended the article by asking readers to remember that there are permanent consequences to driving drunk.

As a Massachusetts OUI criminal defense lawyer, I’m afraid Russo is probably right. It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that people won’t stop doing something just because they know it’s not safe — for example, smoking. But there’s a second side to these mock crashes that students don’t see much of, and that’s the fact that drunk driving is a crime. Police officers may “arrest” the driver in the mock crash at the scene, but it’s difficult to drive home the seriousness of the consequences that driver would face. To do that, you have to think about the driver’s experience as he or she moves through the criminal justice system.

In the crash that killed O’Donnell, Ecclestone is facing multiple charges. A charge of felony motor vehicle homicide carries up to 15 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 1 year. A charge of vehicular manslaughter with OUI, which is less common, carries a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 20. A conviction may also mean driver’s license revocation for life. His future plans may grind to a halt at the age of 18. All of this is on top of living with the knowledge that his actions are responsible for his friend’s death. If you’re facing charges this serious, you need to speak to an experienced Massachusetts drunk driving defense lawyer right away.

The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman represent people throughout eastern Massachusetts who are facing charges of operating under the influence or related crimes. Remember, the police don’t have the final word — even if they say you’re guilty, that doesn’t mean that you are, or that they can prove it in a court of law. To learn more about how our office can help, call us today for a free, confidential consultation at (617) 263-6800 or contact us online.

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