It#039;s time state cracks down on drunk drivers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 14, 2003

One time, it is a mistake. Twice, you could say it was bad judgment. But three, four, five, six, even seven times?

Unfortunately, what we are talking about is drunk driving convictions. After a crash on State Route 243 Friday, the Ironton Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol arrested a Chesapeake man, and charged him with his seventh driving under the influence offense --

the fifth offense in the last six years. Sadly, this is not uncommon in Ohio.

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Each month, the Ohio Department of Public Safety puts out a newsletter, "Hot Sheet News," which reports the state's habitual DUI offenders. The information contained in the newsletter is submitted from law enforcement agencies across Ohio. As it turns out, it is not uncommon for a person to get arrested for several DUIs.

In fact, in December's edition of the newsletter, it was reported an officer with the North Olmsted Police Department arrested a 44-year-old man for his 11th DUI, and a trooper from the Circleville Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol arrested a 41-year-old man for his 10th DUI. Both men were arrested in October.

Earlier this month, an Akron man was convicted of his 19th DUI offense, what is believed to be a state record. It cost him 6 1/2 well-deserved years in prison, as well as an $800 fine and a suspended driver's license for 10 years.

It is time the state takes a bigger stand against drinking and driving. Taking a habitual offender's license away is not the answer -- these people are going to ignore the suspensions and drive anyway. Part of the problem is that the penalty for driving on a suspended license is not stiff enough -- a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Sympathy is wasted on habitual drunk drivers as they obviously have learned nothing from their many convictions. Instead, they choose to persist in reckless behavior that puts not only themselves at risk, but others as well.

The best thing we can do is put these people in prison and give them plenty of time to sober up. Their time behind bars will mean safer streets for everybody.