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Sean McLaughlin: SCV Voices

Posted: July 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Reference two front-page headlines in The Signal of Tuesday, July 9: "DUIs remain high" and "Driver in fatal crash sentenced."

In the first article, the sub-headline is: "‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ not getting through to motorists, official says."

The second article explains the 16-month sentencing of James Samuel Buterbaugh for vehicular manslaughter while driving intoxicated.

Buterbaugh drove into the back of a big rig stopped on I-5, killing his passenger.

It’s not hard to understand the connection here.

Nowadays, DUI drivers in serious accidents causing very serious injury are right back on the street in months.

I have a friend whose young daughter and passenger got smashed into by a speeding drunk driver on Copper Hill; they will be a long time in reconstructive surgeries and physical therapy before healing from those injuries.

But the scars won’t be entirely erased, and physically they will never be the same. And they were lucky.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says alcohol intoxication goes hand-in-hand with marijuana and cocaine use. DUI intoxicated drivers frequently are found to have ingested multiple substances at once.

And the clamor in this state and country that says marijuana is harmless and should be legalized! What a crock!

Why should drivers take seriously the penalties for driving intoxicated or worry about causing horrendous injuries and death when the punishments affixed to such crimes are hardly more than a slap on the wrist by comparison to the horrendous human toll they have caused?

In our victim/blame society, we liberally bend over backward in this state and country for intoxicated drivers involved in serious accidents that maim and kill.

These murder more than 10,000 people a year — that’s killing 30 people a day — and seriously maim thousands more a year who manage to survive horrendous crashes caused by intoxicated drivers.

Sentenced intoxicated drivers should face far more stringent consequences — such as losing their licenses permanently, paying huge fines and serving long jail terms — because they need to be forced to think twice and be taken off the road if they won’t.

In law enforcement and punishment, strong punishment and deterrence go hand in hand. If there is not commensurate consequence for these crimes, DUI driving will go on unabated because we as a society make excuses and embrace "getting high tonight" — no matter the cost to others.

Make the message clear: you drive DUI, you kill or hurt someone, you’re done driving. You betrayed the trust society gave you by handing you a driver’s license, which is a "privilege not a right."

Sean McLaughlin is a Valencia resident.


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