Enough! That's what we should all be saying.
We assume Journal readers share our disgust with last week's front-page story that a local man got cited for drunk-driving No. 8 after allegedly crossing a highway, careening through a guard rail, and landing in a ditch before skipping off from the crash and hiding under a tree in someone's backyard.
Why are such dangerous people still driving? Six weeks earlier this same guy was arrested for drunk driving near Glen Park. His case is pending but it seems he got another chance for behind-the-wheel mischief.
Imagine if this person had maimed or killed someone in a head-on highway crash. Luckily, this time, he only caused minor property damage and extra work for police hunting him down.
Are these multiple drunk driving arrests rare? Not really.
In last week's Journal it was reported that another local man was pulled over for speeding and tailgating on slush-slippery North Main Street. After arresting the driver, police found that it was his fifth drunk driving violation.
Last month it was reported that a Cumberland man who hasn't had a license in 16 years was arrested in Barron County for drunk driving-10th offense. Ten! The judge set as bail a $1,000 signature bond, which the man easily posted. He's supposed to test daily for alcohol use and was told not to drive, but past restrictions haven't stopped him.
Let's face it, the public -- you and I -- is not being protected from drunken drivers. Allowing repeat drunk drivers on the road is like arming a drive-by shooter. The threat is random, which makes the tragedy far worse.
In Wisconsin, the first four drunk driving offenses are only considered misdemeanors. It takes a fifth arrest or more before the offense rises to the more serious felony. Maximum penalty is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
A recent study by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that less than half of those sentenced for fifth-offense drunk driving end up serving time. Sentencing severity varied among judges.
Bottom line: The sole aim of drunk driving enforcement should be to protect us. If budgets allow, offenders should have access to rehabilitation to try to overcome their alcoholism. But first the law must emphasize keeping them off the road. Period.
That can mean stricter requirements of ignition interlocks, devices that prevent alcohol-impaired drivers from starting their cars. Legislators should also make drunk driving a felony after a third offense, instead of a fifth. And why not force repeat drunk drivers to register like sex offenders with local police departments? That way their movements and identities are better known.
In Wisconsin 41.4% of fatal accidents are caused by a drunk driver. It's time we get serious about this threat and stop treating it like a nuisance.
Some Journal online readers also had strong views on this topic. Feel free to comment on posted stories by going to www.riverfallsjournal.com: