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Thumbs down: Repeat DUI tracking still flawed

Oct. 01, 2013 @ 11:58 PM

Public awareness and tougher enforcement have done a lot to reduce alcohol-related accidents in recent years.

The United States had 26,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in 1982, and by 2011, that number had dropped to 9,900. But one of the obstacles to further progress is the repeat offender.

These dangerous motorists, who represent a third of all DUI arrests, remain a stubborn part of the problem not only because they continue to drive drunk, but also because the system has a hard time keeping up with the offenses. In most states, each offense should lead to more severe penalties, but with reporting varying by jurisdictions and states, too often they do not.

Five years ago, Ohio implemented an online registry to help with the problem. But that is not working well either, because only 75 courts from 46 of Ohio's 88 counties have submitted data, the Advocate newspaper in Newark found. That means a lot of repeat offenders are missing from the 520 repeat offenders listed, including a Ross County man facing his 11th drunk-driving case.

The legislator who sponsored the registry bill hopes to improve accountability and get more courts participating, but there seems to be confusion about who should report and when.  Efforts to develop a national data base of problem drivers also has had mixed results. The National Drive Registry, operated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, collects information about drivers who have had their licenses revoked or suspended or those who have been convicted of DUI, but several states do not participate.

The gaps in reporting need to serve as a reminder to law enforcement and the courts that thoroughly researching a DUI defendant’s driving record may require some extra checks. But those steps are critical to appropriate charges and keeping these dangerous drivers off the road.

 

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