Our Opinion: Repeat DUI offenders get overdue tougher penalties

The penalty for chronic offenders of Pennsylvania’s driving under the influence laws just got stiffer.

And well it should.

Under a long-overdue revision passed by the Legislature in October and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, the legal consequences for some repeat offenders of DUI laws add up to a felony for the first time.

The new law also mandates longer jail time for those who unintentionally cause someone’s death because of a repeat DUI violation.

The stiffer penalties for repeatedly driving drunk include increased fines and penalties for driving under the influence on a license suspended because of a DUI conviction.

The change applies when someone has been charged with a third offense in a decade with at least twice the legal limit for alcohol, or any fourth-time offender. Pennsylvania’s law sets the legal limit for driving at 0.08 percent.

Previously, all DUI offenses in Pennsylvania were treated as misdemeanors, which carry lighter penalties and fewer other consequences.

Considering that Pennsylvania has about 10,000 alcohol-related crashes and 300 fatalities annually, the point at which the felony conviction kicks could arguably be quicker.

Nationwide, more lives are lost from DUI-related accidents than the casualty totals for many of the nation’s wars.

That is simply unacceptable and especially tragic in light of the broadened avenues for not driving under the influence. In an age of designated drivers, Uber, and other taxi services, and municipal transportation alternatives, there is basically no excuse for people driving drunk.

Hopefully, these new penalties will be the alternative that drives Pennsylvania’s DUI tragedy numbers down.

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