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Drunk drivers get many opportunities to harm others in Iowa

More than 90 Iowans die each year in alcohol-related car accidents. Roughly 40 percent of those accidents involve a driver who has been arrested in the past for drunk driving. One-third of Iowa drivers who are charged with vehicular homicide while intoxicated have been caught drinking and driving at least once before. Such a high percentage raises the question of whether Iowa is doing enough to get drunk drivers off the roads and keep them from re-offending.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a typical drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before they are first caught and arrested. In addition, somewhere between half and three-quarters of drunk drivers continue to drive even when their licenses have been suspended. At the current levels of enforcement and punishment, too many people feel free to drink and drive. The penalties are not a sufficient deterrent to this dangerous activity.

A minor punishment further reduced

An analysis of Iowa's performance regarding drunk driving shows that the penalties for multiple DUI offenses are comparatively light. Other states allow for harsher penalties for repeat offenders. In addition to light sentences, repeat offenders frequently escape even minimal consequences. In Iowa, you can kill someone by driving drunk and serve only a small percentage of your sentence. You can be back on the road, driving drunk and killing again in a matter of months.

A range of solutions

It is possible that longer criminal sentences are not the answer. Drunk driving laws should focus on protecting the driving public. If better counseling or education can reduce the deaths and injuries caused by drunk drivers, the State should consider improvements in those areas. Longer sentences have the benefit of removing individual drunk drivers from the roads, but the best solution would see to it that, whenever those drivers got out, they would not repeat their misconduct.

The current system is not sufficient. Lives are being lost and families torn apart by drivers who are making the same bad choices again and again. The victims of these crashes deserve better.

Source: The Des Moines Register, "'Iowa is a great place to live if you are a drunk,' a victim's mom says. She could be right.," by Kathy A. Bolten, 25 March 2017 

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