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Home arrow Opinion arrow Our View arrow KEEP HABITUAL DRUNKEN DRIVERS OFF HIGHWAY

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KEEP HABITUAL DRUNKEN DRIVERS OFF HIGHWAY

Habitual drunken drivers are in the national crosshairs. According to a survey of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, habitual drunken drivers make 40 percent of all drunken driving trips, and they might as well be shooting at other drivers with a loaded handgun. In alcohol-related crashes in 2001, 17,448 people were killed nationally — or 41 percent of all U.S. traffic deaths.

While suspended and uninsured drivers appear more often in the Northeast Oregon police record than habitual drunken drivers, unlicensed drivers are a problem nationally. Another study found that one in five drivers in fatal crashes is

unlicensed.

The studies recommend stiffer penalties targeting habitual drunken drivers and eliminating diversion programs. For a DUII locally, the fine is generally $750, not chump change, and the license is pulled for at least a year. The court can put a first-time offender into a diversion program. If he fails to complete diversion, he pays the price. The study recommended getting rid of diversion programs since they can have the effect of encouraging habitual offenders because their records can be wiped clean.

The bottom line? States like Minnesota impound motorists' license plates when their licenses are suspended, which has been cheap and effective. Continued federal support for traffic safety at the local level will also help keep the roads safe from high-risk drivers.

SUSTAIN FUNDING

Rural Eastern Oregon communities, which often struggle to keep their hospitals staffed with nurses, can be grateful for the help they are getting from their congressional representatives and the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing at Eastern Oregon

University.

Because of the lawmakers' and OHSU's efforts, a $250,000 federal grant has been obtained to get the Rural Frontier Delivery Program back in business and sustain it for two years. RFD allows students to remain in their small rural communities while studying through Eastern's nursing program.

The distance education program fell victim to low revenue last year. But OHSU and Eastern, along with the area congressional representatives, got the funding ball rolling.

What this means is that nursing students can remain in communities such as Enterprise and Burns while pursuing their degrees. After graduation, many of these nurses will remain in their home towns to fill staff positions in hospitals and clinics. That's a win-win for both the students and their communities, which do not have to go outside the area to recruit nurses and sometimes see outside recruits flee back to their big cities after a year or two.

It's good to know that our congressional delegates see the importance of the rural delivery program. They should find a way to sustain the funding beyond two years.

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