Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ohio needs to toughen DUI laws

Times Recorder - - Zanesville, OH Ohio needs to toughen DUI laws

Why do we continue to tolerate drunks who drive, crash and kill people?

Drunken driving is a huge problem in Ohio. For every 10 cars that drive past you, one is likely to be driven by someone convicted of driving under the influence.

According to Department of Public Safety figures dating back to 1973, there are almost 36,000 drivers with five or more drunken-driving convictions in Ohio. There are 312 people in Muskingum County with five or more DUI convictions, including two with a staggering 16 convictions each.

Last year, 52.9 percent of the 528 people convicted in Muskingum County of operating a vehicle under the influence were repeat offenders. That's far above the state average of 41.2 percent for repeat offenders.

After a run of fatalities at the hands of repeat offenders, the General Assembly is belatedly taking action.

Last week, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed a bill requiring Ohioans with multiple drunken-driving convictions to take breath tests when stopped by police, and to wear bracelets to monitor alcohol levels through their sweat.

Blood-alcohol tests would be mandatory for anyone with two or more DUI convictions.

The measure moves to the House, which likely will consider a proposal that would require anyone convicted of drunken driving to install an ignition-locking device. The device won't allow the car to start if the driver has been drinking.

While they are at it, legislators should close the loophole that ties judges' hands when it comes to repeat offenders. A man in Cincinnati only got six months in jail for his eighth DUI in 30 years because of the time gaps between his convictions.

It's impossible to eliminate drunken driving entirely. But tougher laws and greater vigilance among us all can reduce the number of intoxicated drivers - and the deaths they inevitably cause.

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