02/03/06 — Risky equation: Multiple DWIs produce exponential dangers

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Risky equation: Multiple DWIs produce exponential dangers

This is not the place to discuss whether the man who was arrested this week for his second DWI in less than five days is guilty or innocent. That is for a judge to decide.

And we probably shouldn’t talk about why he was still on the streets in a car when he already had two previous DWI convictions. It is pretty obvious that there is no way to keep a drunken driver who wants to re-offend out of a car. There are just not enough law enforcement officers working to assign one to every potential drunken driver.

But what we should be thinking about as we read this latest story about drunken driving and the problems it causes in communities is how lucky we are that a vigilant officer caught this one before an allegeddriving-while-impaired offense ended in a tragedy.

The truth is that the problem of drunken driving is better, but is nowhere near solved. There are still hundreds of men and women across the state — and many more than that around the nation — who do not seem to fear the consequences of getting caught with a high blood-alcohol content behind the wheel of a car.

Multiple offenses do not seem to worry them — and suspended licenses just don’t seem to stop them.

An officer can arrest a man 15 times for driving while intoxicated, but until someone makes certain he cannot get back behind the steering wheel of a car — there is no way to stop him from re-offending if he is determined to do so.

That is why random traffic checks are so important. That is how many of these people are caught.

Addressing the issue of drunken driving is critical if we are going to keep our highways safe. Stiffer penalties and more aggressive enforcement procedures might be our best defense against these repeat offenders — and a way to make sure they stay off our roads.

But in the meantime, turning them in before they leave the bar, or making sure they can’t find their keys, might be an effective way to keep them away from a car or truck.

It does not take much for a drunken driving incident to end in a horrible tragedy. Hundreds of lives are taken each year by drunken drivers — and most of the time they are not their own.

We need to do our part to keep these people off the roads, but it is also time for legislators to give law enforcement officers the power they need to make sure these multiple offenders are stopped before they kill someone.

Published in Editorials on February 3, 2006 11:12 AM