July 19: Voice of The (Anchorage) Times on writing smarter drunken driving laws:

Posted: Monday, July 24, 2000

As the carnage continues to mount from drunken drivers on Alaska's highways, it is understandable that folks sometimes focus on punishment and lose sight of the objective -- to keep drunks from getting behind the wheel.

To do that, we need smarter, and perhaps tougher, laws.

For instance, assigning license tags to owners rather than their vehicles would be a giant step in the right direction. A person buying a vehicle would have to go to the state Department of Motor Vehicles and purchase a license tag. A suspended driver's license? No tag. Too many accidents? No tag. Too many DWIs? No tag. Charged with driving without insurance? No tag.

Then there is the state's narrow three-strikes law. It is a step in the right direction for repeat offenders, but the law only includes the most serious crimes, such as arson and murder.

There is no reason felony drunken driving -- and they should all be felonies -- or driving without a license could not be included in the list of crimes covered. Wheeling down the highway drunk is, at best, attempted murder -- and at worst, murder.

Simply turning to harsher penalties is not the complete answer. We must find a way to keep drunks from driving or find a way to keep them off the streets for a long while if they do.

Nothing else will work.


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