Editorial: Tougher laws for DWIs welcomed

Mar. 23, 2013 @ 01:37 PM

In the 1980s, Lance A. Snyder was convicted of drunken-driving in a crash that killed a couple from Walkertown, a community just outside Winston-Salem.

When released from prison, Snyder picked up more driving while impaired convictions in the 1990s.

The state has a habitual DWI law, which kicks in with a fourth conviction within a 10-year window. If the number of convictions is less than three in 10 years, the habitual charge doesn’t kick in until it does reach the mark.

So when Snyder was released from his second prison term in 2010, the 10-year window had rolled along and the court then had to treat him like a first-time offender. He’s been charged twice since, but not as habitual.

Deaths, repeat charges, and no teeth in the law.

It led Winston-Salem Democrat Pat Hurley to call for change with House Bill 31. She wanted legal strength with the sponsorship, and Henderson attorney Nathan Baskerville, a freshman Democrat, joined her and two others.

We’re glad he did. And we were happy to see the bill pass on to the Senate by a 108-10 vote this past week.

We were also glad to see House Bill 40 move along as well, by a 115-3 vote. This bill is equally needed, bringing the habitual charge on the third conviction rather than the fourth within 10 years.

We hope eventually the 10-year window language will be dropped completely. Getting caught once could be a mistake, twice maybe the lesson wasn’t learned. But three times? There’s a problem, help is needed and others on the road need to be protected.

Co-sponsoring both bills are Reps. Elmer Floyd, Carl Ford, Bert Jones, Edgar Starnes, Paul Tine, Chris Whitmire and Michael Wray. We thank each of them.

Driving while impaired laws have toughened greatly over the last 40 years. And yet, some people still don’t get it. If there’s going to be drinking, do it responsibly. And being responsible means not driving.

Just give the keys to someone else, call a taxi, call a friend, but don’t get behind the wheel.