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AS I SEE IT

Posted 12/31/12 (Mon)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple hit the nail right on the head when he stated, “We (North Dakota) cannot allow more and more lives to be lost or irreparably harmed by drunk drivers.” Well said, Governor!
Drunk and impaired drivers are a serious danger not only to themselves when they get behind the wheel of their vehicles, but to every other motorist that they meet.
And it is about time that the state of North Dakota not only beefs up its enforcement of DUI laws, but also to makes the consequences of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs so severe that it will serve as a deterrence.
And that is just what Gov. Dalrymple, along with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Rep. Kim Koppelman are proposing as new legislation that will be presented to the North Dakota Legislature when it convenes in January this month.
Under the proposed legislation, first-time offenders would be charged with a Class B Misdemeanor and be subject to a minimum of 10 days in jail (of which four days cannot be suspended) and a $750 fine. A second time offender within 10 years would be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor and be subject to at least 60 days in jail (10 days of which cannot be suspended) and a $1,500 fine. A third time offender within 10 years would see their charge increase to a Class C Felony and be subject to at least one year and one day in jail (of which 60 days cannot be suspended) and a $2,000 fine. And for those individuals who are arrested four or more times for DUI within any time period, they would face a charge of Class C Felony and be subjected to at least one year and one day in jail (of which one year in custody cannot be suspended) and a $2,000 fine.
The new penalties would also include provisions that would require all DUI offenders to serve probation and participate in a mandatory sobriety monitoring program.
Those are some pretty hefty charges and jail time for those who choose to drive while under the influence. And those costs do not reflect the additional increase in insurance premiums that those arrested would also be hit with.
But while the cost to the individual who is arrested and convicted of a DUI charge may seem steep, those costs pale in comparison to the loss of life and property that the state of North Dakota is currently experiencing because of impaired drivers.
Last year, 148 people died on North Dakota roadways and alcohol was involved in 47 percent of the accidents. So far this year, 158 people have died in North Dakota traffic accidents and alcohol was involved in about 53 percent of the fatal crashes.
It is time that the state of North Dakota gets tough on those people who choose to drive while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. And this proposed legislation is a good way to get the message out, that we as citizens of North Dakota, will no longer tolerate impaired drivers on our roadways.
As Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem stated, “What we need to tell people is, ‘if you continue to drink and drive, we’re going to stop you from drinking.’ That, coupled with tougher penalties, is what is needed to deter this problem.”
That is a message that North Dakota needs to emphatically support as the legislation makes its way through the legislative process.