If DUI Policy Isn’t Saving Lives, What Is It Accomplishing?

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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.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS2ZIw6279s&w=640&h=480]

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.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylJXbTGvDQs&w=640&h=480]

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).

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If “get tough” DUI laws aren’t saving lives, and preventing traffic accidents, then what exactly are we accomplishing?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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