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:

So far this year, Great Falls police officers have issued 18 more DUI’s than during the same period in 2013.
Across the state, 25 alcohol-related vehicle deaths have been reported this year, up six from last year at this time.

The same day, the Great Falls Tribune reported that William Hunter, age 50, was arrested Saturday evening on suspicion of his seventh DUI. Reading about someone getting a third, fourth, fifth (or more) DUI is pretty common these days.

It should not be common.

You’ve probably heard me ask several times why anyone would be free to roam our streets who had that many DUIs. I routinely mention people who get DUIs on this website because they need to be embarrassed – and the people who can do something about it won’t.

The people who can do something about it include state legislators who don’t seem to care that much about the epidemic of drunk drivers on the streets. Judges and prosecutors seem to be more than willing to accept plea deals than hold drunk drivers accountable.

Thankfully, our police officers still care enough to arrest people for driving drunk, although it must get pretty old seeing people they arrest “get a deal” that reduces their charges.

As for my sister’s accident, she had a broken leg and internal injuries that stayed with her for life. She missed her senior year of high school. The other two passengers suffered similar injuries. Thankfully nobody died that night. Many families are not that lucky.

The drunk driver left the area to escape prosecution and basically got away with it for several years. He never paid my sister or her friends’ medical bills. A few years later during the holidays my dad spotted him in a local coffee shop and let the sheriff know he was in town. He was arrested and paid a small fine.

I think he should consider himself lucky that my dad called the sheriff.

 

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