Nebraska needs harsher DUI laws

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By Angel Eggerson, Contributor

You can change, rearrange, add on  or totally repeal the current laws concerning drunk driving in Nebraska. But if someone wants to drive drunk, he or she is going to do it. It’s scary but true. No law can completely stop drunk driving.

People are complaining about Administrative License Revocation, in which a person arrested for drunk driving receives a 90-day license suspension. For the first 30 days, drunk drivers are issued a temporary license that allows them to keep driving on Nebraska roads.

Ingenious – let’s catch someone driving drunk, snatch away their plastic license and give them a yellow paper license that will allow them wreak havoc on our roads for at least another 30 days. Concerned drivers, beware.

One of the most ridiculous parts of ALR says that convicted drunk drivers can continue to drive while they appeal the punishment.

Another ridiculous feature of ALR is the need for a court order to get ignition interlock installed on a drunk driver’s car. Ignition interlocks prevent cars from starting if a driver has had too much to drink. 

Our neighbors in Iowa, Missouri and Kansas don’t have such a drawn out process. Why is Nebraska so far behind the curve? Is it time to scrap the law altogether? 

I don’t think we should go that far.

Even though ALR has problems, the facts say it’s saving lives by reducing the number of drunk-driving-related fatalities on Nebraska roads. Since implementation of ALR in 1992, deaths in alcohol-related crashes have dropped by about 16 per year, according to “Building on DUI law,” Henry J. Cordes’ recent article in the Omaha World-Herald.

Still, license suspension doesn’t always deter people from making stupid choices.

Statistics show 80 percent of drunk drivers with suspended licenses still drive, according to Cordes. A drunk driver with a suspended license killed a newlywed Omaha couple last fall. Clearly, something must be done to change minds and make people think twice about getting behind the wheel after drinking.

Ignition interlock would be a condition of bail if Legislative Bill 667 passes. This is a costly measure for the driver, especially if he or she is a college student on a tight budget already. Ignition interlock systems can cost up to $500. Add on the $100 monthly maintenance fee and a college student is left pondering whether driving drunk was worth it. Hopefully, the answer will be “no.”

But can we count on the busted, drunk-driving college coed to alert his or her cohorts of the costly consequences to DUIs in Nebraska? If alerts are given, can we count on those cohorts being concerned enough to stop driving drunk?  Habitual drinkers aren’t usually that rational.

Somehow, I don’t see many drunken bar patrons stumbling sloppily to their vehicles, pulling out keys and stopping to say, “Oh, wait a second! I better not drive drunk tonight. That old LB 667 might get me.”

Something more must be done. Drunk drivers must be sent a lesson teaching them the value of saving someone’s life by not getting behind the wheel. Though lives have been saved by ALR, if we increase the stakes, maybe more can be saved.  Nebraska should combine ALR with LB 667.

Drunk drivers, I’m sorry if you think this infringes on your due process rights. But if you’ve failed a sobriety test given by a police officer, that’s due process enough.  Pass the ignition interlock.

I have a friend who always drives drunk and it hurts my heart and infuriates me.  The other day, he was worried about letting his auto insurance lapse. He talked about it all day until it was reinstated. Then he said to me, “Now I don’t have that to worry about when I drive.”

It’s ludicrous that Nebraska drivers who habitually drive drunk are more concerned with getting caught without insurance than getting caught driving drunk. That tells me something needs to be done to wake these individuals up to make our roads a little safer. We don’t need to scrap ALR, just combine it with interlocks to make drunk driving as risky for offenders as potential victims.

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