DUI Debate

Monday, April 30th 2007, 5:45 pm
By: News On 6

A Tulsa police officer is recovering after being hit by a suspected drunk driver. It is one of at least two alcohol-related injury crashes in downtown Tulsa this weekend. DUI crashes killed 231 people in Oklahoma in 2005, and local victims advocates say that shows more needs to be done. But, the News On 6’s Heather Lewin reports one DUI defense attorney says our laws are unfairly punishing the wrong people.

Police say a Tulsa officer was hit when another car ran a red light Sunday night, that driver was arrested for DUI.

According to local victims advocates weekends are so dangerous that one of every seven cars coming at you is driven by someone impaired. But defense attorney and author of the "DUI Survival Guide", Bruce Edge, asks are they really dangerously drunk or just matching an arbitrary number, .08?

"Your driving behavior may not be indicating any problems, but if the number's there, you could be found guilty," he said.

Edge says it wasn't scientific research, but societal pressure that lowered the nation's legal blood alcohol limit.

"The number dropping has been dropped without any empirical data to suggest it's making a difference,” Edge said. “In fact studies will show the real danger still lies for the public at .15."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a driver already shows signs of impairment well before the legal limit. At .02 divided attention and visual function is affected, .04 a person’s eye movement control and standing steadiness are impaired, at .06 information processing and judgment is affected, and at .08, currently the legal limit, people have problems concentrating and controlling speed.

"About one-third of all drivers that are charged with a DUI are repeat offenders, so it's not the person going to happy hour and having one drink and then being arrested," victims advocate Rose Ewing said.

Edge says suspected drunk drivers are treated unconstitutionally compared to other accused criminals, often forced to give potentially damaging evidence against themselves, like taking a breathalyzer, without being allowed to talk to an attorney.
Ewing says the laws aren't tough enough. She says Oklahoma's lack of a unified court system means a drunk driver can be arrested over and over without any serious charges being filed.

"So in other words you could be picked up in Bixby, that would be your first DUI, then you could get arrested in Tulsa, that's a first time DUI, then you go to Sand Springs and you drink," Ewing said.

Ewing says in one case a man had 17 first time DUI's all in different courts.

Watch the video: Do Oklahoma's DUI Laws Protect Oklahomans?