Cracking Down On DUI Offenders - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

12/28/04

Cracking Down On DUI Offenders

The highway patrol and local police and sheriff's departments are gearing up for another holiday weekend and the worries about drunk drivers taking to the roadways.

New Year's eve wraps up what is unfortunately a deadly time on Mississippi roads. Last year between Thanksgiving and New Year's 320 people died in our state in alcohol related traffic accidents.

The good news is the numbers are falling. Police and organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving attribute that to awareness and tougher drunk driving laws.

MADD says the next step is to increase the penalties for first and second offenders.

Officers like Jim Cazzell with the Gautier Police Department say stiffening penalties is a good idea but law makers shouldn't focus on offenders' pocket books.

"They need to have some sort of mandatory jail time," says Cazzell. "I mean on the second offense you got a mandatory 48 hours jail time. Make it 48 hours on the first offense and, of course, increase it on the second."

Captain Michael Ducote with the Ocean Springs Police Department feels the same way.

"A better deterrent would be mandatory jail time," said Ducote. "In our court system they're given a fine and a suspended sentence and they can make payments on these fines... so it's not that much of a hardship."

The veteran officers believe mandatory jail time would make potential offenders think before they drink and drive.

"Not only are they endangering their self but they're endangering the other parties that may be on the road," says Cazzell. "I've worked accidents involving alcohol ranging from minor bumps and scrapes... to fatalities."

The officers encourage people to consider other options before getting behind the wheel intoxicated. They suggest either calling a cab, having a sober friend do the driving or staying where one is until they sleep it off.

by Josh Ridgdell

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