Montana: Drunk Driving Epidemic

Many years ago when I was a child living in the Midwest, my dad was working away from home on road construction one summer, so it was just me, my mom, and my 16 year old sister living at home. My sister was out late with her friends one night, so mom and I went to bed. Around 1:00 a.m. there was a very loud knock on our door. A family friend was at the door and told my mom that he was driving home and came upon a wreck – a wreck that involved my sister and her friends.

I heard my mom ask, “What happened?” The friend said a man was driving drunk and hit the car that my sister and her two friends were riding in head-on.

Just about every time I hear about a drunk driver having a wreck or getting arrested for DUI, I remember my sister and what she went through and what my mom and dad went through.

It seems that just about every day we read or hear about someone driving drunk and getting arrested or about a wreck that “speed and alcohol were both factors in the crash.” If you think DUIs are on the increase here in Montana, apparently they are.

Great Falls television station KRTV (CBS) aired a story on Tuesday about driving under the influence (DUI) arrests and fatalities increasing not only in Great Falls, but across Montana:

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SCOTUS Poll: A Nation Divided

Today would have been a good day to write about World Cup soccer because I watched (and dozed off) during the match between Germany and Argentina yesterday. I kind of like soccer the same way I like Olympic swimming and gymnastics. Once these events are over, I normally don’t pay too much attention to them until the next Olympics.

So thanks World Cup for killing some time for me this summer, but the World Cup column will have to wait – maybe forever.

Many people don’t pay too much attention to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) until June of each year when they release their decisions. Then we forget about them unless a high-profile case is heard.

Gallup recently released the results of their SCOTUS poll that was conducted the second week of July. Gallup reported, “Americans remain divided in their assessments of the U.S. Supreme Court, with 47% approving of the job it is doing, and 46% disapproving.”

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Hobby Lobby: Deep Thoughts

Full Disclosure: I’ve never been to a Hobby Lobby store.

The Supreme Court “Hobby Lobby” case was about a section in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) that required companies to provide access to birth control like the morning-after pill. It was basically about abortion. Hobby Lobby supposedly provided coverage for about 18 different methods of birth control, but they did not want to provide coverage for birth control methods like the morning after pill.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby. Now everyone knows about Hobby Lobby and you can’t put a price on the free publicity!

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Caught My Eye…

Thanks for stopping by to read “Caught My Eye” – the last one for April, so buckle up!

If you are a first-time visitor, “Caught My Eye” is posted right here every Friday morning! This is when I take a quick look at some of the stories I did not have time to write about during the week. I often throw in a touch of sarcasm to make you smile – or to irritate you just a little.

Today I write about Barry Beach and Bullock, Lawrence VanDyke and the Supremes, Corey Stapleton telling us “Folks are Upset,” Cliven Bundy telling us “about the Negro,” and (sadly) about 40 veterans who died in Arizona.

Plus, we have a winner who is Making Montana Proud! Read on…

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A Tale of Two DUIs

It’s always enjoyable to watch the local governments in action – this is where the rubber meets the road! I am writing about the city of Great Falls and Cascade County governments in Montana. Great Falls is in Cascade County.

I served a term on the Neighborhood Council several years ago in Great Falls, and it was an enjoyable experience. Right after high school, and before I decided to join the military, I worked as a laborer and heavy equipment operator for a city in the Midwest. So I have seen the operation of the local government from several angles.

Almost every Friday I write about someone or some group that is Making Montana Proud. These people embarrass Montana in some way. I have also written extensively about drunk driving over the years.

Here’s an update on two people who made my Making Montana Proud list!

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Caught My Eye…

Thanks for stopping by “Caught My Eye” which is coming to you from The Western Word world headquarters deep inside a bunker in Montana…

Just kiddin’ about the bunker – I’m actually in my basement.

If you are a first-time visitor, “Caught My Eye” is posted right here every Friday morning! This is when I take a quick look at some of the stories I did not have time to write about during the week. I often throw in a touch of sarcasm to make you smile – or to irritate you just a little.

Today I write about the Ryan budget, the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices, Barry Beach, Obama & Keystone, Rep. Vance McAllister, Kathleen Sebelius, a new app, plus we have TWO winners who are Making Montana Proud!

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Jury Duty

Faithful Readers,

Today I have the distinct pleasure of reporting to U.S. District Court for jury duty.

In case you are not up on your U.S. District Court rules, this is the court where “Electronic devices, such as cameras, cellular phones, wireless devices, laptops, etc., are not permitted.”

Lord help me.

I am sure there will be a future story somewhere in this little adventure.

I’ll be back…

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The Best of 2013

Happy New Year! Thanks to you, 2013 was a great year here at The Western Word (TWW) world headquarters in Great Falls, Montana.

TWW has been an active blog since January 2005. By the way, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

A special thanks to the 124 subscribers to TWW. By the way, you can be notified of new columns by subscribing. You can do that by clicking on the +Follow tab in the bottom right corner and entering your e-mail address, or by going to the subscribe box on the right side of the page (under the Twitter feed box) and entering your e-mail address there.

It is always fun to see which columns are viewed the most and from where the columns are viewed. This past year people from 95 countries visited TWW. A special “shout-out” to one person in China who was able to stop by!

In 2013, there were 317 new posts, growing the total archive of TWW to 2,097 posts.

Listed below are the top five columns that received the most views in 2012 on TWW:

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McGrath: Judges Are Honest. Trust Us.

I had to do a double take when I read an Associated Press story that reported, “Montana Supreme Court justices should not have to publicly disclose their personal financial interests or those of their families because the high court already follows a strict code to avoid potential conflicts, the chief justice [Mike McGrath] said.”

His plan? The AP reported, “It’s the judge’s responsibility to disqualify himself or herself from presiding over a case in which he or she has a financial stake, McGrath said.”

Why does McGrath think this? He said it’s because Montana’s high court justices follow a strictly enforced Code of Judicial Conduct.

Seriously?

We’re supposed to take his word for it. It kind of reminds me of Reagan’s nine words, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

If Montanans actually believe every judge will be honest and forthright with their financial dealings, and “follow a strictly enforced Code of Judicial Conduct” then I have some ocean-front property to sell you near Geyser.

It was sunny and 85 degrees there last week, too.

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Congrats Montana!

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a report (with 2012 stats) that showed “in 2012, 10,322 people lost their lives in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes.” These were people killed nation-wide.

That was an increase of 4.6% from 2011.

As for Montana, it leads the nation with 44% of the fatalities being alcohol-related. During 2012, there were 89 people killed in Montana in alcohol-related crashes, according to the report.

These 89 people left behind family and friends.

So congratulations Montana!

The NHTSA should make a traveling “Drunk Driving” trophy that has to be prominently displayed in the state capitol for the year after a state leads the nation in alcohol-related fatalities. Maybe state legislators, the governor, and the attorney general would work harder to deter drunk driving if they had to see that trophy.

The sad thing is there are people driving around right now who have multiple DUIs on their record. Hardly a month goes by that I don’t read about someone with more than five DUIs getting caught again.

It does not have to be that way.  Continue reading