February 3, 2015

Will stronger penalties for DUI really reduce drunk driving?

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A DWI task force in the state of Minnesota wants lawmakers to increase the penalties on people who are accused of committing a driving while intoxicated offense, and they also want to lower the threshold at which police and prosecutors can file stronger charges against an accused DWI offender -- even if it is just the individual's first offense.

While these suggestions may not necessarily become law, the mere fact that they are being thrown out there is both expected and also a little scary. The hope, from the task force's perspective, is that these suggestions become law and, thus, fewer people will be out on the road driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. With stronger penalties, who would want to be caught behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while inebriated?

But this is a fundamental misunderstanding of how someone who is intoxicated thinks. When you are inebriated, you aren't thinking clearly. If your car is nearby, you aren't thinking about the penalties associated with a DWI, nor are you considering the task force's push to get stronger penalties. The individual in this situation is just trying to drive home -- an admittedly terrible decision, but one influenced by the substance in his or her body.

Stronger penalties may make it seem like "something is being done" about drunk driving, but the truth is that drunk driving will always be a societal issue. We need to take alcohol abuse and drinking problems more seriously in this country. Throwing added punishment at a DWI offender will only make it more difficult for that person to turn his or her life around in the wake of the charge -- and that could lead them to drinking again.

Source: Star Tribune, "Task force wants Minn. lawmakers to get tough on DWI offenders," Abby Simons, Jan. 2, 2015

Tags: Drunk Driving Charges


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The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are DUI, an acronym for Driving Under the Influence, and DWI, an acronym for Driving While Impaired.
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