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Our view: Commissioner's arrest shows consequences of impaired driving

Herald editorial board

Teachers, preachers, police, doctors and elected leaders. These are people who have earned our trust and an assumption they are working in our best interest. When they break that trust, they should expect a critical response.

So it probably is coming as no surprise to North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger that he is facing criticism after being stopped for driving under the influence last month near Mandan.

The 34-year-old was arrested by a Highway Patrol officer at 10:30 p.m. Sept 30 and charged with driving under the influence of intoxicating liquors. He had a blood-alcohol percentage of .206, more than double the legal limit.

It has been reported that Rauschenberger will plead guilty during a court appearance next week. It's his first DUI arrest.

Rauschenberger has said he doesn't plan to resign and we don't believe he should. While DUI is a serious offense, it's certainly not uncommon, especially in North Dakota. Between 2012 and 2016, there were 327 alcohol-related traffic deaths in the state, according to statistics from the Department of Transportation.

Happily, we report the number has consistently dropped over that five-year span, from 87 in 2012 to 49 last year. It's a great improvement.

Rauschenberger's arrest, while unfortunate and showing lack of judgment, actually can help keep that number trending downward. Since his blood-alcohol content was so high, the charge could be an aggravated offense and come with a $750 fine and two days in jail.

That would be humbling for a statewide elected official who is up for reelection next year, and it will be newsworthy. It also will be free marketing for organizations committed to reducing the number of impaired drivers on streets and highways in the region.

This isn't about humiliating Rauschenberger, who has admitted to troubles with alcohol in the past. It's about raising awareness that driving under the influence is a dangerous habit that can be accompanied by deadly consequences.

The Herald isn't against alcohol. We enjoy a drink as much as anybody.

But with alcohol must come responsibility, and Rauschenberger failed to show it when he drove drunk last month.

Now, he has a chance at redemption and, to an extent, at educating North Dakotans about judgment and responsibility. And even if he doesn't take those steps himself, the publicity that surrounds his case will go a long way toward showing the repercussions and consequences of impaired driving.

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