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State legislators debate over solution to drunk driving

On behalf of Law Office of Matthew Vance, P.C. posted in Drunk Driving Accidents on Thursday, June 21, 2012

Many legislators in New Mexico believe that something needs to be done about the state's number of alcohol-related traffic deaths, but they simply cannot reach an agreement. According to Gov. Susana Martinez, the state needs to address a growing problem: repeat offenders. She says statistics have shown a shift in the percentage of fatal drunk driving accidents involving repeat offenders.

Those statistics from the state Department of Transportation's Traffic Safety Bureau show that 30 percent of alcohol-related traffic fatalities were caused by repeat offenders, with 70 percent being caused by those with a first-time arrest or conviction. In 2009, the percentage of repeat offenders jumped to 35 percent and in 2010, it increased to 47 percent. But last year, that percentage crossed the halfway margin. The analysis reported that 58 percent of alcohol-related vehicle fatalities involved repeat offenders.

Due to this data, the governor has continued her efforts to push through more severe punishments for those who have been caught drinking and driving on more than one occasion. She believes that longer prison sentences may cause these individuals to drink and drive less often. In addition, she wants the state legislature to allow law enforcement officers to seize the vehicles of repeat offenders.

The governor has tried and failed to have legislation such as this passed before. Some opponents believe that the state cannot afford longer prison sentences. Many of these individuals are seeking different solutions, such as alcohol treatment programs.

Other advocacy groups working against drunk driving do not think the statistics are credible. An official with the DWI Resource Center said the sudden spike seems unbelievable. According to him, the proportion of fatalities blamed on repeat offenders has hovered around 30 percent for two decades.

Some argue that the increase in repeat offender blame is due to a decrease in first-time offenders. But either way, driving drunk is against the law, and when a drunk driver hurts or kills someone, there needs to be justice.

Source: Alamogordo Daily News, "NM study: Repeat DWI offenders growing problem," Barry Massey, June 10, 2012