Drunken-driving plague demands police action

The list of people killed in recent weeks in Mesa County as a result of alcohol-related driving is tragically long. It includes:

•  Samantha Loy.

•  Juhn Fullmer IV.

•  Diana Luttrall.

•  Shandi Boetel and Natalia Casiano.

Samantha Loy was the victim of her own decision to drink and drive. John Fullmer and Diana Luttrall were passengers in vehicles allegedly piloted by drunken drivers. Shandi Boetel and her infant daughter, Natalia Casiano, died after their truck was smashed by a car driven by a man who was not only exceedingly drunk, according to authorities, but was screaming down city streets at speeds up to 70 mph before the collision.

Law enforcement officials aren’t responsible for any of the decisions that prompted people to get behind the wheel of vehicles while inebriated. But we hope they will do more to prevent similar deaths in coming weeks and months.

Lives have changed immeasurably for the people involved in these fatal wrecks, and for those associated with them.

The drunken drivers who survived the collisions will likely — and very definitely should — spend many years in prison.

Family and friends of those killed will endure just as much time, and more, grieving for their lost loved ones.

And the community suffers, not only because young lives were needlessly ended, but because other people, who might very well have contributed greatly to society, will now be a drain on our resources as they waste much of their lives in prison.

Colorado enacted a new DUI law last year, which took effect Jan. 1. It raised the fines for those caught driving under the influence of alcohol and it makes it easier to take away driving privileges for a suspected drunken driver. It also allows motorists to regain their driving privileges in 30 days if they agree to install an ignition locking device that tests for the presence of alcohol before allowing the driver to start the vehicle.

All of those are sensible responses to drunken driving, but they have clearly had little impact in Mesa County. Police can’t stop all drunken drivers, but they can improve the odds.
Increased use of sobriety checkpoints, especially on weekends, can make it clear motorists will face severe legal consequences for getting behind the wheel drunk. Then more people will think of designated drivers, taxis or other alternatives to driving drunk.

And, with spring approaching, so is the outdoor party season. Police and Mesa County Sheriff’s Department officers should actively seek out places where so-called “woodsies” are being held, and break them up before they turn into drunken free-for-alls.

And if people complain about either of these actions, the officers should just hand out cards with the names of the five people listed above, and explain how they died.


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