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Our view: A continued scourge in North Dakota

Herald editorial board

Don't think for a minute that driving under the influence isn't a terrible problem in North Dakota. Police are trying, but too many Upper Midwest people are just too hard-headed for their — and our — own good.

For example, early this year, Danny Lee Bettcher of New York Mills, Minn., was caught driving under the influence for the 28th time, adding to what is assumed to be a disgraceful Minnesota state record. He also has a history of driving drunk in North Dakota.

In August, police in West Fargo said that city is on pace for more DUI arrests than it has had in a decade. At the time of the report — early August — police had made 183 DUI arrests, 40 percent more than the 131 made in the same span in 2017. West Fargo now is on pace for 288 DUI arrests in 2018, more than any of the past 13 years.

Also last month, Forum News Service reported that the average drunk driver arrested in North Dakota is driving with a blood-alcohol content of more than double the legal limit. It's illegal for a driver with a BAC of .08 to drive, but the average drunk driver in North Dakota has a BAC of .17.

And Thursday, the Herald reported that North Dakota ranks No. 3 nationwide for states with the most impaired-driving deaths per capita. In 2016 — the latest numbers available for the study — there were 113 motor-vehicle deaths in the state, and half were related to impaired driving. The national average is 28 percent.

Countless news columns have been filled in the Herald as it reports on the misdeeds of impaired drivers. We'll continue to do it, because we know impaired driving is a deadly civic sin that puts other lives at risk. Those who do it deserve public shame.

This is a scourge, and statistics show it's not going away anytime soon. Because for every person who volunteers as a designated driver, and for every person who calls for a ride after a couple of drinks, and for everyone who makes the mature and safe decision to not drive drunk, there is some inconsiderate idiot like Danny Lee Bettcher getting behind the wheel of a speeding, swerving projectile.

And remember: The Danny Lee Bettchers of the world don't get caught every time they drive drunk. In reality, they probably drive drunk multiple times between getting caught; if so, it means there is more drunk driving going on than even our sad statistics show.

Monday is Labor Day and this is an extended holiday weekend. People should take advantage of the extra day and enjoy themselves, but also they should vow to abstain from driving while impaired. Doing so could save a life, keep your insurance rates low and keep your name out of the local newspaper.

As statistics continue to pour in showing North Dakota as a state plagued by impaired drivers, it's times like these that make us even more resolute to spread the message and hopefully convince people to make the right choice before getting behind the wheel after drinking.