Stiffer DWI penalties the right step

If you don’t think drunken driving in this state is a problem, you haven’t been paying attention.

According to the Highway Safety Research Group, there were 290 alcohol-related fatalities in Louisiana in 2013. In Calcasieu

Parish alone, there were eight alcohol-related fatal crashes in 2013 and 177 alcohol-related injuries.

In the first three months of 2014, the American Press has already reported on five area men who have been charged with their fourth DWI.

Almost monthly, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office sets up DWI checkpoints around the parish because it’s such a problem

in the area.

These reports paint an ugly picture of Louisiana — and Southwest Louisiana, as well.

Too many people drive drunk. And too few of them don’t stop doing so until they hurt someone else and get caught.

Drunken driving is a problem.

Louisiana has a long way to go to keep drunken drivers off the roads, but now two state lawmakers are doing their best to

make sure these irresponsible people receive a worthy punishment.

Drunken drivers who are twice the legal limit and who kill behind the wheel could face more than two decades in prison under

a bill that is advancing in the legislative session.

State Sens. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe,

and Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, introduced Senate Bill 55 on

Wednesday with the

full backing of the Law Institute. The bill adds vehicular

homicide, when the convicted offender’s blood alcohol concentration

exceeds 0.20 percent, to the list of 44 crimes that can be

designated a crime of violence.

In the bill, the senators define

crime of violence as “an offense that has, as an element, the use,

attempted use, or threatened

use of physical force against the person or property of another,

and that, by its very nature, involves a substantial risk

that physical force against the person or property of another may

be used in the course of committing the offense or an offense

that involves the possession or use of a dangerous weapon.”

The Senate Judiciary C Committee approved the bill without objection, recommending it to the full Senate. Senators could take

up the legislation as early as next week.

We applaud the senators for their efforts. There’s just too much at stake to get comfortable with things the way are.

This is an important step toward keeping drunken drivers off our roads.