An Alabama man has been convicted of murder in connection with a fatal 2010 drunk driving crash. The Gulf Coast Daily News reports that 30 year-old Mark Howard was found guilty after a Baldwin County jury deliberated for approximately two hours.
"This man showed utter contempt, total disregard for human life," said District Attorney Hallie Dixon. "It was a reckless murder. He deserves this murder conviction, and innocent people deserve to be protected from him while he serves what I hope will be a long prison sentence."
Local law enforcement officials said that Howard got behind the wheel of his Dodge pickup after drinking all day on July 31, 2010. He then crossed a roadway center line and struck a Toyota subcompact car head on. The driver of that vehicle, 68 year-old Wanda Logue Luttrell, was killed in the crash. Howard was seriously injured.
"He was completely loaded, like any other weapon, when he got behind the wheel of that truck and crushed the life out of Wanda Luttrell," Dixon said. Howard reportedly had multiple convictions for driving while intoxicated: he had been released from jail only three months previously for his last offense.
A sentencing hearing is expected to be set within 30 days. With a murder conviction, Howard could be sentenced 10 to 99 years in jail, or to life in prison.
Drunk driving: The sobering facts
• According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 10,000 people died nationwide in 2010 accidents caused by drunk drivers. That means one person was killed every 51 minutes throughout the year. Annually, costs associated with drunk driving crashes exceed $37 billion.
• NHTSA research has revealed that repeat offenders account for approximately one-third of all drivers arrested or convicted in connection with impaired driving offenses.
• An average person requires about an hour to metabolize one drink, which means only time can help sober a person up. Drinking coffee, taking cold showers and exercising will not make you sober any faster.
• The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that fatal crash risks increase steadily as a driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) rises. At 0.05%, crash risks increase "substantially'; at o.o8% and higher, the risk "climbs more rapidly."
• The Missouri Highway Patrol says alcohol was "a significant contributing factor in Missouri's serious traffic crash experience in 2010." Alcohol was cited as a contributing factor in 27.3% of fatal auto crashes throughout the state. 218 Missourians were killed and 3,823 were injured in these accidents.