Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on drunk driving laws:

Posted: Monday, February 12, 2001

Lowering the state's drunken driving standard from .1 blood-alcohol content to .08 won't do much to stop the most dangerous, habitual offenders whose intoxication at the scene of horrific accidents sadly registers two or three times the legal limit.

Suspensions, likewise, are insufficient to protect the law-abiding public from individuals with a history of ignoring such paper penalties.

Incarceration, confiscation of vehicles, and mandatory participation in alcohol treatment programs offer better means for protecting the law-abiding public from the careening path of repeat offenders.

On the other hand, individuals inclined to mix drinking with driving are likely to sip more cautiously if lawmakers lower the state's intoxication standard.

The specter of a mandatory stay in jail, stiff financial penalties and the irritations of a significant period of license suspension might be the deciding factor in passing up that 'one for the road' that slows a generally responsible individual's reactions to a dangerous, potentially tragic degree.

All of the above-suggested approaches to curbing drunken driving and more are before lawmakers this session. At last count, there were nine House or Senate bills with provisions addressing the subject from various angles.

The point here is that no mandatory jail sentence or fine, no single adjustment of the state's intoxication standard, and no one approach to treatment can be expected to achieve the goal of protecting law-abiding Alaskans from the threats posed by drunken drivers.

The only long-term solution is in educating all Alaskans about the public dangers and personal risks that go with taking the wheel in a drunken or impaired state. That's the mission this society thrusts upon its law officers.

It's up to lawmakers to give troopers, police and public safety officers all the necessary legal leverage, backed by sufficient funding, to rid our roads of drunken drivers.

Alcohol abuse is so pervasive in Alaska--the mission requires a full assortment of prosecutorial tools and treatment programs.

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