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Repeat drunk drivers should not own a vehicle

Editorial Board • Mar 23, 2018 at 2:12 PM

Someone with a drinking problem needs the kind of help he won’t get behind bars. But when he or she repeatedly drives drunk, society has few options. Such is the case with a Hawkins County man recently charged with his eighth offense of driving under the influence.

Unless such a person is locked up or some other way is found to keep him off the road, it’s only a matter of time before he kills himself or others. Some states prohibit ownership of a motor vehicle by someone under the age of 18. Can those with repeated DUI convictions also be banned from owning a vehicle? Could that be enforced?

Current strategies to reduce or prevent drunk driving are working, but too many repeat offenders still get behind the wheel. We have DUI laws, sobriety checkpoints, ignition interlocks, media campaigns, license revocation or suspension, and other instructional programs, but so long as a drunk has the keys to a motor vehicle, they will drive drunk.

The Hawkins offender has a history of DUI convictions dating back to 1985. He was recently spotted driving at a high rate of speed on Carters Valley Road. An officer attempted a stop, but the driver continued into Sullivan County for some distance before pulling over. He did not have a driver’s license, and a computer check revealed DUI convictions in Hawkins County in 2016 and in Sullivan County in 2002, 1998, 1994, 1987, 1986 and 1985. He also had three previous convictions for driving on a revoked license.

The only way to prevent someone like this from driving drunk is to ensure he has no means to do so, other than perhaps someone loaning a vehicle. And if that happens, that person should be held responsible for whatever results.

We already have laws that prevent people from owning certain things. For instance, if you’re a felon you cannot own a firearm. Society should take the same approach to drunk drivers. In 2016, 10,497 people died in drunk driving crashes — one every 50 minutes. And 290,000 were injured in drunk driving crashes.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, an average drunk driver has driven drunk more than 80 times before their first arrest.

We’ve got to get repeat drunk drivers off the road. Tennessee could lead the way by being the first state to ban vehicle ownership by anyone convicted of a certain number of drunk driving offenses within a certain period.

They’ll drive drunk whether or not they have a license or insurance. And they’ll probably drive drunk if they can purchase a vehicle. But banning them from registering it may help.

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