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Guest View: State should work to decrease drunk driving

“DWI arrests declining across Southeastern N.C., law enforcement agencies say”

That headline appeared in the StarNews last week. So did these:

“Suspected drunken driver in fatal crash possibly drove wrong way for 9 miles”

“Supply man charged with murder in DWI crash was out on bail”

We’re never quite sure what to make of crime statistics. Do fewer arrests mean fewer people are committing the crime, or could it just mean fewer people are getting caught?

What we do know is that too many people still are getting behind the wheel while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. And those actions continue to kill and injure innocent people. Even more disturbing is the number of DWI repeat offenders.

Police say Broderick Lamont Jones, 38, of Proctorville, was driving his car 85 mph in the wrong direction on U.S. 74 near Lumberton when he crashed head on into another car, killing two Wilmington teenagers. Jones will not be charged until he leaves the hospital.

In 2007, he was charged with impaired driving. His blood-alcohol level was 0.13 percent — nearly twice the legal limit — but the charge was dismissed. Last June, he was again charged with DWI. He was due in court for that charge Wednesday.

Why were the charges from 2007 dismissed? Why had more than six months passed since his last charge and his court date?

Meanwhile, William Chandler McHenry, 24, is charged with murder in a Feb. 2 crash that killed John Henry Howard, 84, of Supply.

On Jan. 14, McHenry had been arrested on a DWI charge in Shallotte. He was out on bail when he was charged in the death of Howard. McHenry also had a DWI conviction in 2011 and has a conviction from a 2009 incident in which he used a stolen handgun to shoot a 17-year-old.

Since the nationwide crackdown on driving while impaired began in the early 1980s, the number of fatalities has been halved. But we should not be content until drunk driving becomes rare. Efforts by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and action by state legislatures cut the number of DWI fatalities in half; why can’t we double down again and cut that number in half?

We urge our area legislators to bring this issue up in the General Assembly. It really is a matter of life and death.

from the StarNews of Wilmington.


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