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Published March 06 2012

Forum editorial: Ramp up anti-DUI campaign

As sure as beer at a Super Bowl party, there will be grumbling about the Fargo Police Department’s proposed multi-faceted crackdown on drunken driving in the city. New statistics indicate that the problem is getting worse, despite more enforcement, more education about alcohol abuse and more “be responsible” rhetoric from the alcohol industry.

Driving under the influence arrests for 2011 show a significant increase over 2010. If trends continue, 2012 DUI arrests will top 2011. A frustrated Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes said, “It baffles me.”

The chief also said, “Enough is enough.” That sentiment ought to drive not only the department’s determination to be more aggressive in getting drunks off the road, but also community support the police must have in order to achieve some measure of success. Complaints about assaults on “personal freedom” or imposing “police-state tactics” lack credibility when irresponsibility behind the wheel threatens lives.

Keep in mind, the DUI arrest statistics reflect only those drunken drivers who were caught. Police resources, no matter how skillfully deployed, detect and arrest only a small percentage of drunks on the road. Therefore, the danger to sober drivers and their families is far greater than even the startling arrest numbers reflect.

Drunken driving is a symptom of a more pervasive cultural malady. Alcohol abuse starts among kids as young as middle school age. An industry that urges responsibility on one hand but glamorizes booze and beer on the other can’t absolve itself from responsibility merely by reminding critics that alcohol is a legal product.

Chief Ternes and the department can’t do it alone. The plague of alcohol-impaired driving is rooted in societal winks and nods that all too often have given alcohol use and abuse a pass. It’s not going away anytime soon, even if schools crank up education efforts, booze peddlers preach responsible drinking, and more alternative transportation options are made available. Rigorous enforcement, including more unannounced and mobile checkpoints, sends a stronger message. If Fargo police need more resources to get drunken drivers off the streets – and to shout the message to others who would drink and drive – the city should step up.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.

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