John Trelstad, Fargo, Published December 29 2012
Letter: North Dakota can do better to prevent drunken drivingNorth Dakota leads the nation in many quality of life measures. It also leads the nation in the percentage of traffic deaths related to drunken driving – 44 percent in 2010 and 43 percent in 2011. Figures for Iowa were 22 percent and 23 percent and Maine 25 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
Clay County reported 50 DUI convictions in October and 84 minor-in- possession/consumption convictions. Cass County reported 29 DUI convictions and 37 minor convictions for the two-week period ending Nov. 25.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the average drunken driver has driven drunk 80 times before a first arrest. What does this tell us? Existing penalties are not severe enough to influence choices. Maine has zero tolerance for under-21 drinkers. They lose their license for a year. Maybe that’s good for starters. Both Maine and Iowa have provisions for vehicle seizure and confiscation following a DUI conviction.
North Dakota law allows confiscation and sale of vehicles for certain hunting violations, which hunters respect. Maybe it can help reduce fatalities, injuries and enormous health care costs to human beings.
Seventeen states require interlocking device for all offenders. No doubt 24/7 monitoring would be appropriate for some offenders, but why not give judges both tools?
Neither alcohol consumption nor vehicle use by themselves, but rather the combination of the two is what creates the potential for heartache. Over half of the children killed in drunken driving crashes are killed while riding with the drunken driver.
The Legislature will address this issue beginning in January, and the public has the opportunity and responsibility to weigh in. Take time to visit respective state transportation websites, or go to the websites of the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, www.ghsa.org, or Mothers Against Drunk Driving, www.madd.org, for details like those cited above.
We are all responsible for safety on our roads. Be informed and contact your legislators.