N.D. needs tougher laws on drunken drivingChanging North Dakota’s culture to be less tolerant of drinking and driving will be an uphill battle, according to Forum Communications Reporter Teri Finneman’s July 10 article “A sobering problem.”
Changing North Dakota’s culture to be less tolerant of drinking and driving will be an uphill battle, according to Forum Communications Reporter Teri Finneman’s July 10 article “A sobering problem.”
But lawmakers can set the tone for that culture — and send a strong message — by passing stricter penalties for driving under the influence.
North Dakota is certainly not the only state with a drunken driving problem, but it needs to get with the times and update its laws and the consequences that come with breaking the law.
To say that an effort to make laws more stringent and dissuade drunken driving would not do any good is absurd. It may not alone solve the state’s problem with drinking and driving, but that does not mean that tougher laws wouldn’t help.
More stringent laws that would provide more severe punishments for first-, second- and third-time offenders could keep more drunken drivers off the road and save lives.
Right now, the minimum mandatory sentence for a first-time driving under the influence (DUI) offense is a $250 fine and an order for addiction evaluation, with the driver’s license typically suspended for 91 days.
That’s a slap on the wrist. First-time offenders need to face mandatory jail time and pay a more hefty fine.
In addition, a DUI offense does not become a Class C felony until a fifth DUI. A Class C felony should go into effect with a third DUI conviction, if not the second one.
Tougher laws will send a message that drunken driving is not acceptable. No, it won’t dissuade all potential drunken drivers from hitting the road, but even if it takes just one drunken driver off the road then it has been a successful change.
Our law enforcement agencies regularly conduct saturation patrols and awareness campaigns on the dangers of drinking and driving. They deserve to be commended for their work. Tougher laws could be another tool in their efforts to deter drinking and driving.
But law enforcement can’t do it alone. This problem also requires the people of North Dakota to work on a cultural problem that is bigger than the laws themselves. Clearly too many people are convinced that it’s OK to drink and drive. No laws will change that.
It has to be the people choosing not to tolerate drunken driving from anyone. We have to stop turning a blind eye and make it clear that we aren’t OK with drinking and driving.
Twenty-five years ago not many people would have anticipated the anti-smoking culture that has taken over this country.
Hopefully residents statewide will look back 25 years from now and be saying the same thing about North Dakota’s attitude on drinking and driving.
(Editorials are the opinion of Jamestown Sun management and the newspaper’s editorial board)