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Repeat drunken drivers, take heed

We strongly applaud expanded state and local efforts to apprehend and punish motorists who risk life and safety while driving impaired. Each year, too many Oregonians are injured or killed in accidents involving intoxicants. Many of them are the helpless victims of others’ willful decisions to drink or use other drugs and then get behind a steering wheel. Last year, 196 people died in Oregon in such accidents. That number is almost one-half the annual carnage in the 1970s, but it still is too many. That’s why we support increased funding for more state police officers, expanded police monitoring of erratic driver behavior and the availability of more equipment for suspected intoxicated drivers to be tested on the spot. We also applaud the Oregon Legislature and Gov. Ted Kulongoski for designating a new crime — aggravated vehicular homicide — that brings a minimum 20-year sentence to drivers who repeat the crime of killing someone while driving under the influence and increases penalties for people with a history of DUII convictions who kill or seriously injure someone in the same way. This legislation rights a painful wrong. History tells us that too many repeat DUII offenders find their way back onto the highways, only to again threaten the lives of others.