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Our opinion: Get tougher on repeat DUI offenders

Longtime readers of our newspaper know our position on driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

It’s dangerous. It’s selfish. It’s reckless. And it’s just plain stupid, especially in a day and age in which getting a ride somewhere is easier than ever.

Because of that, we were happy to see the Pennsylvania House of Representatives pass a bill with broad bipartisan support that would stiffen penalties for repeat DUI offenders.

The bill would ensure that someone who commits a fourth DUI with an elevated blood alcohol level serves a longer jail sentence, in part by raising the offense to a second-degree felony, and that offenders with two offenses serve more time by making them serve their sentence consecutively with other counts.

The bill was inspired by the death of Deana Eckman. The 45-year-old Delaware County woman was killed in 2019 by a five-time drunk driver whose pickup truck crossed the double yellow line and slammed head-on into the car driven by her husband Chris, who was seriously injured.

The 30-year-old pickup driver, David Strowhouer, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder and other charges, and was sentenced to 25Ç to 51 years in prison. Just a few months prior to the crash, however, he had been freed from state prison after serving a concurrent sentence for his fifth DUI conviction.

Any DUI is wrong and preventable, but we realize that sometimes good people make mistakes. This bill doesn’t go after those first-timers who pay the penalty, learn their lesson and never reoffend, but instead targets those who clearly either have a problem or callously just don’t care if they hurt anyone else.

Those are the people who deserve to have the book thrown at them before they maim or kill some innocent person who just so happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, something we’ve tragically seen play out locally.

In our opinion, if these people can’t be responsible enough to keep themselves from repeatedly getting behind the wheel while drunk, then they need to be put in a place where they can’t drive at all — prison.

It’s high time those who drive responsibly are protected from those who put us all in danger. We urge the state Senate to act quickly and for Gov. Tom Wolf to give it his blessing should it reach his desk.

Legislators need to realize how urgently we need this law before someone else becomes the latest victim of a repeat DUI offender, because you never know when that victim might be someone you love, or even yourself.

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