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Tri-State residents favor tough drunk driving laws

April 12, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

The tougher, the better, said most Tri-State area residents asked Saturday how they feel about making drunk driving laws more strict.

In Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, drivers with a blood-alcohol level of .10 or higher are considered intoxicated.

President Clinton has endorsed toughening the law by lowering that level to .08 nationwide.

That proposal is being fought in Congress by the liquor and restaurant industries, which claim a .08 alcohol level is so low it basically targets social drinkers. Lobbyists for those industries claim it is the chronic, abusive and underage drinkers who are causing the real problem on American highways.

"I think it ought to get tougher," said Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. Fire Chief Jim Meek, who lives in Rouzerville. Meek said firefighters and rescue workers get to see their fair share of drunk drivers, including repeat offenders. "We see the same thing, month after month," he said.


Meek said he thinks police in Washington Township and Waynesboro, Pa. are doing a good job of enforcing drunk driving laws.

Firefighter Charles Byers, of Waynesboro, said he "most definitely" thinks drunk driving laws should be tougher. "Doing what we do, you get to see some gruesome things as a result of people driving drunk," he said.

Byers said he responded to one call that ended up being a fatal. A man who had been drinking was speeding, and lost control of his vehicle. It went into a tree. "The driver ended up laying in the middle of the road," he said. "It cost him his life."

"You can't make the laws too tough," said Lorraine Hays, of Highfield, Md.

Bar Socks, of Waynesboro, agreed. "I think they ought to be tougher, because drinking drivers kill people," she said. "It's a bad habit, drinking and driving."

Marie Meininger, of Fayetteville, Pa., said she thinks tough laws and tough enforcement go hand in hand. "I think they should be made just as strict as possible, and enforced to the letter," she said.

"When they arrest someone who kills someone, and that person is let go, sometimes to do it again, I think that's horrible. It's unbelievable that we allow this," Meininger said.

In Hagerstown, Cheryl Poffenberger said she thinks the laws should be more strict. "I'm an insurance agent," she said. "It seems like we do so many claims" involving drunk drivers.

Dianne Keller, of Smithsburg, said she thinks blood-alcohol limits should stay where they're at, or get a little stiffer. "They're too many drunks on the road," she said.

Keller said she is concerned, in general, about young people drinking and age limits for drinking. "I'm worried about my kids. It's not just alcohol, but it's drugs, too," she said.

Nancy Conroy, of Hagerstown, thinks drunk driving laws are "probably fine right where they're at. I think we probably need to catch more who are breaking the current laws than we need to worry about lowering the limits."

Mike Ziegler, of Hagerstown, said he used to drink himself, but is sober now. "Yes, I would support stronger laws," he said. "I think that we've got to get these people off the road."

In West Virginia, Robert Walker, of Falling Waters, said, "Sure, I would supporter tougher laws. To even have just a few drinks and get on the road is very unsafe. People are not going to put up with it anymore."

Rhonda Donivan, of Martinsburg, W.Va., took the question personally. "I think they should be very strict," she said. "My son was hit by a drunk driver a year ago. He got 1 to 5 years, but I think he only served one. It was his third DUI (driving under the influence)."

Fred Tenly, of Hedgesville, W.Va., a former drinker, had mixed feelings about the issue.

"I think if a man's drunk and he goes out and hurts somebody, he should pay with his life," he said. "But it seems almost sacreligious for me to say that, because when I was younger, no one drank any more than I did. One morning, I woke up and said, 'This isn't worth it.' I was sick of being sick all the time."

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