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Taking tough stance on DUI is a good thing

Tribune editorial staff

According to a study conducted by a southwestern Ohio newspaper, the city of Ironton can take pride in knowing it has the highest DUI conviction rate.

The Washington Court House Record Herald reported last week that Ironton tied the city of Willoughby for the highest percentage of DUI convictions - 97 percent. By way of comparison, Chillicothe, which had the lowest DUI conviction rate according to the study, came in at 25 percent.

The newspaper examined drunken driving case data collected by the Ohio Supreme Court from each of the state's 119 municipal courts. The analysis found that statewide, 65.2 percent of those charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated ended up being convicted of that charge.

First and foremost: this does not mean Ironton has more drunken drivers than other cities. It just means when the evidence is present, violators are convicted.

We agree wholeheartedly with Ironton Municipal Court Judge O. Clark Collins when he said reducing a DUI to a lesser charge "waters down the law and sends a message that you do not get an appropriate penalty."

Looking at the statistics, we should be proud our area is strict when it comes to prosecuting impaired drivers. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol's annual report, a total of 386,076 crashes occurred in Ohio in 2002, including 1,417 people dying in 1,289 fatal crashes. Alcohol was found to be the cause of 26.75 percent of the fatal crashes.

In Lawrence County, 11 people died in 10 fatal crashes in 2002. Alcohol was the cause of three of those crashes, according to the report. In Ironton, one person died in one fatal crash, which involved alcohol.

Given the seriousness of the offense, we find it hard to believe any court would allow those charged with drunken driving to plead guilty to a lesser charge, such as reckless operation. We applaud the Ironton Municipal Court - and all other

courts across the state with high percentages of drunken driving convictions - for sending a strong message to motorists.