Opinion: Drunk driving warrants stricter sentences

Zach Henson


AL.com reported last month that a man from Huntsville is facing up to two life sentences in May after pleading guilty to two murder charges. 

While I’m sure he did not mean to kill a woman and her baby, he did decide to drive while intoxicated, a crime which I believe should be prosecuted more seriously than it is today and warrant stiffer consequences.

This was not his first time driving under the influence. He was caught driving drunk twice before. Police estimate his blood alcohol content was about .29, almost four times the legal limit of .08 percent, which many already consider too high. 

Not only does this make me think he was far too accustomed to drinking, but also probably far too used to driving while intoxicated, and he doesn’t seem to be the only one.

In 2010, my father and I were in an wreck involving drunk driving; a drunk driver plowed his SUV into the back of our truck while driving at about 60 mph while we were sitting still at a red light. If we hadn’t been in my father’s rather large truck, we probably would not have been able to walk away with only a sore neck and thankful hearts.

The infuriating kicker, however, was the fact that the man who put our lives at risk had been caught doing the same thing three other times before that and was still driving.

Having lived through that experience, I have no tolerance for drunk driving. 

Current laws in Alabama state that first-time offenders are sentenced to serve up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $2,100 and a 90-day license revocation. Subsequent charges come with higher penalties, and being caught the fourth time could lead to a maximum of 10 years in prison, a fine up to $10,100 and a five-year license revocation.

From what I could gather, the driver that endangered myself and my father had served none of these sentences and was still driving, despite not having a license or insurance or even owning the vehicle.

It seems to me that our current penalties are not enough to deter many from drinking and driving.

The punishment for drunk driving should be more synonymous with that of manslaughter, a 2-20 year prison sentence. The person should also never be allowed to drive or purchase alcohol again.

Although some may argue that a drunken person was not in their right mind or that these penalties are too strict, a person still should be held responsible for positioning himself to endanger others’ lives before his first drink.

I cannot accuse anyone of enjoying a few drinks, but they should be responsible and plan a way home beforehand, or better yet, enjoy those drinks at home, with no travel needed. 

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