Getting tough on DWI

From an editorial Wednesday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

North Carolina already has some of the toughest drunken driving laws in the nation, but two bills in the state House, getting rare bipartisan support, would strengthen those laws even more and are worth approval.

Democratic Rep. Darren Jackson of Wake County is the sponsor of both, and knows as much about DWI laws as anyone. A practicing attorney, he’s applied his experience in defending clients to the formation of these laws.

One proposal would toughen the law regarding habitual drunken drivers. Current state law categorizes as habitual offenders those charged four or more times within 10 years. But the habitual DWI charge would apply on the third offense within 10 years under Jackson’s bill.

That’s a good change. Anyone who doesn’t get the message after three offenses doesn’t deserve another break.

A single conviction, after all, comes with all sorts of penalties, including loss of license or reduced driving privileges, and skyrocketing insurance costs. Those who get caught again and again, with many of them likely driving drunk when they didn’t get caught, need to feel the harshest penalty they can.

Jackson cited an experience when he represented a victim in a deadly drunken driving crash. “The defendant,” he said, “had five prior DWIs on his record.”

In another bill, Jackson would prohibit those with convictions but limited privileges from having any alcohol in their systems when they drive. Currently, the law allows them to drive with up to .04 percent on blood alcohol tests. This also is a good proposal deserving of quick passage.