The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

March 11, 2013

Laws should be tougher

Perhaps it’s time to strengthen laws punishing impaired drivers

— Earlier this month, West Virginia State Police conducted a statewide blitz that netted 67 DUI arrests and 352 traffic citations.

During the effort two fugitives were apprehended, 23 people were charged with driving on a revoked license for DUI and 54 felony arrests were made. More than 350 traffic citations were also handed out.

State Police superintendent Col. Jay Smithers called the results — especially the number of DUIs — disheartening. He said efforts to continue educating the public on the hazards of driving under the influence must continue.

We suspect if the number of police officers were actually double what we have now that you would see even more staggering arrest numbers.

Obviously, the possibility of being pulled over and having a matching set of bracelets applied isn’t enough of a deterrent to stop impaired driving.

With nearly two dozen individuals being stopped and charged with driving while being revoked for DUI signals are sent that maybe the penalties still aren’t quite tough enough.

In these times when state leaders are looking at ways to prevent more incarcerations and are considering more lenient options for many criminals, intoxicated and drugged-up people are still getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and are transformed into a moving death machine.

When arrested, these people are considered to be non-violent offenders; however, that really isn’t the case. All it takes is an accident where one drunk or high driver wrecks and someone else gets mangled or loses their life. It doesn’t get much more violent than that.

In our opinion, law enforcement personnel shouldn’t consider the high number of DUI arrests as being a failure. We want them to continue to be vigilant in their patrols and keep making our highways safer.

What needs to be delved into again is the way we punish the offenders, especially those who have been arrested for DUI before and continue to put lives, including their own, at stake.

Doing it once is bad enough. Many who have been lucky — yes lucky — enough to be arrested for DUI without causing harm to themselves or others learn from the mistake.

But for those who repeat the crime, some apparently many times over, they deserve to do time in custody.

They can’t drink or take drugs, and then drive, behind bars.