Drunken driving editorial misses difference between DUI...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

February 06, 1999

Drunken driving editorial misses difference between DUI, DWI

our editorial "On drunken driving, .08 makes sense -- still" (Feb. 3) was quite odd to many who have followed this issue closely in Maryland.

You again chastise state legislators who opposed a bill on the subject in the last session of the General Assembly, but at the same time, in the opening premise of your complaint you assert, "Medical evidence shows the ability is seriously impaired when blood-alcohol constant reaches .08." That is the very same point made by the opponents of the proposal introduced last year.

Maryland law already provides that a driver with a 0.08 BAC is violating the law, specifically driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), commonly referred to as driving while impaired. Indeed, the drunk driving offense of DUI in Maryland occurs under present law not only at a BAC of 0.08, but also a BAC of merely 0.07. This is to date the toughest standard used anywhere in the nation.

Perpetrators are currently subject to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail. More serious violators, who are responsible for the vast majority of collisions, injuries and fatalities, are subject to a stiffer penalty, namely a year in jail, though that sentence is rarely imposed. This is the punishment under our current law for driving while intoxicated (DWI), an offense more serious than DUI.

Some representatives simply believe that the noble objective of safer highways, shared by persons of all points of view, is better achieved by focusing our law enforcement and prosecution resources on the truly drunk drivers, rather than just casting a bigger net to apprehend and incarcerate people who are not creating any significant driving danger.

To elevate the conduct of the dinner patron who enjoys a couple of glasses of wine as equivalent to the drunk who cannot control the operation of their vehicle is to trivialize what ought to be reserved in the eyes of the law for persons who pose a much greater hazard.

This is why some of the legislators who voted "no" on the unreasonable proposal filed last year may vote "yes" on an alternative approach to put Maryland into compliance with the new federal requirement of making a BAC of 0.08 a DWI instead of a DUI, but also, and much more importantly, establishing graduated sanctions for truly drunk drivers.

Dana Dembrow, Annapolis

The writer represents Montgomery County in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Pro and con on impeachment trial

Michael Olesker's Feb. 4 column argues that the impeachment trial is unpopular with the American people because "we know an act of bullying when we see it."

The opposite is true. It is Mr. Clinton who has used state troopers to obtain potential sex partners, who gropes women in the Oval Office and who uses what feminists call "a power disparity" to sexually exploit subordinates.

And when some women object to being so used, Mr. Clinton's awesome public relations machine paints these women as "trailer-park trash," stalkers, or mere liars. If this isn't "somebody with power picking on a pathetic young woman with none" -- indeed, picking on many pathetic but powerless women -- I don't know what is.

Yet Mr. Clinton's peculiar genius is that he has succeeded in making himself a victim, and those who suggest his conduct is reprehensible are seen as bullies. Mr. Olesker just doesn't get it -- but, then, neither do two-thirds of the American people.

Steve Walters, Lutherville

Where in the Constitution does it state that the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is to direct the activities of the Senate? Why does the Senate leader allow himself to be subordinate to the chairman? What hold does the chairman have on the Senate leader, or is it just partisanship?

How different from the leadership of Bob Dole, the statesman.

M. D. Clifford, Baltimore

The Democrats are pathetic in their attempt to spin Republicans as the hatemongers. As Henry Hyde stated, this is not about what we hate, but about what we love.

L. Craig Phillips, Stevensville

I have been reading the standard Republican explanation and rationalization for impeachment of the president. However, I cannot accept it. Moreover, I am now convinced that the danger to the Republic is the Republican Party.

The GOP has taken advantage of its majority status to instigate the process to bring an impeachment on charges that, although grave, are not sufficient to remove an elected president. This would be a dangerous precedent, as it would allow any congressional majority to remove a president based solely on numbers. It would short-circuit our electoral process and begin a parliamentary process in which the majority controls the executive. That is not how our government was designed.

K. Gary Ambridge, Baltimore

Could it be that Barbara Mikulski actually voted her conscience when she cast her original vote on Jan. 27 to continue the trial?

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