Tim J.S. Heise, Grand Forks
Recently, in response to seven people being killed by drunk drivers in a 48-hour period, the chairman of the North Dakota House Judiciary Committee stated, "There's only so much laws can do to prevent it." No, really. Of course that is true, but it is also a reckless statement considering North Dakota has some very feeble DUI enforcement laws to begin with. According to state law, it is a felony to get ... wait for it ... your fifth DUI. It is only a misdemeanor to 1) seriously injure someone while driving drunk; and 2) drunk driving with a child in your vehicle. Furthermore, the penalty for our first DUI is only a $250 fine and a substance abuse evaluation. No Jail time. This can be found in NDCC 38-08. It is not surprising that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) lists North Dakota's drunk driving problem as the second worst in the nation in terms of percentage of total traffic deaths that are DUI related. This can be found on (www.madd.org). Our Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem stated that DUI's are almost 25 percent of all arrests in our state. This is an emergency. I think we should mend our laws in our own way; however the Scandinavian model is a good start. In Norway, if you are convicted of your first DUI, you go to jail for 14 days among other penalties. I suggest a first offense in North Dakota should require 72 hours in jail. A third offense should be a felony and a loss of one's driver's license for 10 years. A felony for a DUI causing a serious injury and a felony for a DUI with a child in the vehicle. MADD has researched that on average a drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times for each DUI offense. This is a warning to our Legislature: If you do not have a backbone on this issue come this January, the people will rise up with a tougher initiated measure.