If you get a little too carried away in your merriment this holiday season expect to face some tougher penalties in the new year if you drink and drive.
In July, new tougher penalties for DUI offenders took effect in Kansas.
Among these are a requirement for an ignition-lock devices for first-time DUI offenders. Drivers are required to blow into a device before they can start their vehicles. If the driver has consumed too much alcohol, he or she will be unable to start the vehicle.
Kansas is not the first state to institute this requirement, but its is one of the forerunners.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a statement Dec. 11 suggesting ignition-locks be used for all offenders convicted of drunken driving.
Drunken driving accounts for almost a third of the 32,000 traffic deaths in the United States annually.
Formerly those convicted of DUI faced a license suspension, but research sited by the Kansas Legislature indicated 80 percent of drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive.
The current ignition-lock technology is not foolproof.
However, the ignition-lock devices are a powerful deterrent that serve the purpose of both punishment and a means of keeping the public safe from those who would reoffend.
Another powerful deterrent for those who might reoffend is education.
The McPherson City Commission recently agreed to offer the Wichita Intervention Program for first-time DUI offenders.
Instead of spending 48 hours in jail, the offenders spend 48 hours confined at a hotel in Wichita, during which time they receive information about the dangers of DUI, are assisted in evaluating their use of alcohol and drugs and can receive referrals for treatment.
The defendant pays for the weekend course. The city saves because it does not have to pay to hold the person in jail.
If drivers are able to receive information, self-evaluate and be led to treatment, the community is better served than if an offender spent time sitting in jail. Justice is better served through a safer community than punishment of an individual.
The state should be praised for its forethinking on the use of ignition-lock devices, as well as McPherson for its use of the Wichita Intervention Program.
Other states should adopt this model of prevention and rehabilitation rather than mere punishment.
Don’t find out about these programs the hard way. If you will be drinking during the holiday season, designate a sober driver.
— Cristina Janney on behalf of The McPherson Sentinel Editorial Board