Gregg and Susan Spindler are not happy. Their daughter Meagan, a researcher for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was killed by a drunk and doped driver last July. Since then, the Spindlers have tried from their home in New York to persuade South Dakota to get tougher on impaired drivers. They've communicated with Governor Dennis Daugaard. They've proposed reforms like the National Transportation and Safety Board's proposal to lower blood-alcohol limits to 0.05 or less. They've presented facts and research to support stronger DUI enforcement.
Facts and research? We know how that goes in South Dakota government....
The proposals were reviewed by the governor’s staff, Department of Public Safety and Highway Patrol. On Nov. 15 we again met, but the only proposal was the Highway Patrol committed to doubling its enforcement actions to 400 in 2014. That means on an average day, only in one spot in the vast state of South Dakota there will be an active DUI enforcement action.
Finally, on Feb. 5, we were informed there would be no major changes in DUI laws. The governor felt changes would not have the “intended effect.”
His assessment totally contradicts the work of the NTSB. Ignoring the NTSB’s report is just as serious as if the CEO of Boeing or Airbus chose to ignore NTSB air safety recommendations.
The governor ignores the success of the European Union, Japan, Australia or Canada reducing deaths, injuries and DUI incidence. In a decade, EU deaths were cut by more than 50 percent, while U.S. death rates have flat-lined. This is not nanny-state socialism; rather, tough laws, deterrence, highly visible enforcement and good police work [Gregg and Susan Spindler, "South Dakota, Governor Disappoint on DUI Reform," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.02.14].
South Dakota evidently needs some kind of changes. We just miss the top ten for impaired-driving fatality rates, with 0.47 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Oklahoma is tenth at 0.48; North Dakota is fourth at 0.60; Montana is second at 0.73. Yet Governor Daugaard looks at a goo-gob of science on how to save lives on our highways and shrugs.