Yesterday while guest hosting the Scott Hennen Show, I had the opportunity to do a couple of interviews related to new proposals for DUI laws here in North Dakota. The first interview was with Bakken Beacon/Great Plains Examiner Dale Wetzel who covered a press conference with Governor Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and state Rep. Kim Koppelman where new DUI policy was announced.
The obvious impetus for this was the tragic death of a West Fargo family due to a drunk driver earlier this year (the family was from Koppelman’s district and relatives attended the press conference), but Wetzel notes that the officials on hand admitted that this new law probably wouldn’t have stopped those deaths.
I also interviewed Rep. Koppelman, and I asked him about concerns that the “get tough” approach to the DUI issue will only cost a lot more tax dollars (not to mention a lot more law enforcement/court time) without actually saving lives. Rep. Koppelman told me that he’s sensitive to that argument, but thinks this law will help.
I’m not sure I agree with Rep. Koppelman. We all want safer roads, but despite a 53% increase in DUI arrests since 2001, alcohol-related deaths and traffic accidents haven’t changed much (which I pointed out in a post yesterday). If anything, they’ve gone up slightly (though, to be fair, overall traffic in ND has gone up as well).
If “get tough” DUI laws aren’t saving lives, and preventing traffic accidents, then what exactly are we accomplishing?