The Mitchell Daily Republic Saturday Sept 28, 2013 has a story reporting the details of a New Yorker's plan for SD DWI laws and regulations. His daughter was killed here by a drunken driver. The MDR story might be available for a few days but the link below will turn into a pay only link.
About 40 years ago, I worked as a public information officer and assistant director of the SD:ASAP (Alcohol Safety Action Project). It was a federal highway safety "demonstration" project. The project was instrumental in getting the full extent of the DWI problem in SD known. We wrote the first laws requiring blood alcohol tests when there was a highway crash fatality. Something around 68% of crash fatalities in those days involved alcohol-impaired driving. My memory if fading, but we may also have guided a bit of the attempt to get the DWI BAC reduced from 0.15 to 0.10 which was reduced again after SDASAP was killed by the SD legislature down to 0.08.
Anyway, at the same time, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was campaigning nationally and in-state for much tougher penalties on drunken driving. About that time, my father-in-law died and we moved to Winner, SD. Here, a number of teens and young adults have been killed because of drunken driving and not wearing seatbelts.
It soon became obvious to me that tough DWI penalties were not doing a whole lot to actually stop drunken driving and it later was interesting to see drunken drivers sent to prison for many years only to come out and within weeks again be arrested for drunken driving or be involved in a crash. That penalty system was not changed until SD Attorney General Larry Long came up with the very good idea to use daily breath tests and supervision so that drunken drivers could keep working and supporting their families, but also be kept sober on the highways.
There are a few ideas in the New Yorker's package that make sense, but extending penalites will likely only cost taxpayers a lot more for prisons and actually do little to change drunken driving behavior.
Drunks lose self-control and sense as they again alcohol-fueled over-confidence. They become unable to concentrate on multple things and that appears to be a form of tunnel vision. It makes little sense to expect people already in that condition to understand they should not be driving. They are not thinking about a long prison term or the costs an arrest will add to their driving expense.. The problem starts before drunks ever get into a vehicle.
The problem starts with the SD alcoholic beverage and liquor industry selling alcohol to alcohol addicts and underage drinkers. That industry will continue to be irresponsible in pursuit of profit while all of us pay extra taxes and car insurance premiums to allow that irrsponsible industry to continue making profits.
I have suggested that one week after a traffic death consequent to an alcohol-related crash that every business of any kind selling alcoholic beverages be shut for one day with a notice posted on their closed door saying, "Closed because of an alcohol-related traffic crash". This might cause the industry to be more careful about who they sell booze to, but also would give responsible bar tenders, waiters, and waitresses a good reason for stopping serving a customer already tipsy.
And, we should tax liquor business and liquor sales so that the tax provides a 50% subsidy to South Dakota vehicle driver insurance. Otherwise, those of us who are responsible drivers end up paying for cleaning up the destruction, death, social misery, etc related to drunken driving and all of us thus effectively support the liquor industry which bears little of the expense it gnerates for the rest of us...
While the New Yorkers have the eye of the media, I hope they look at something that might actually work instead of returning South Dakota to expensive measures that don't work
*** Stay tuned and be a Good Neighbor and Drive Sober.-- Doug Wiken