In 2012, there were 29,560 DWI offenses statewide. In 2013, the numbers dropped to 25,594. And so far in 2014, there have been 2,428 DWI arrests.
While the numbers are down, some say the consequences for repeat DWI offenders need to be harsher.
“There have been instances where there have been two or three time offenders who have gotten reduced sentences or suspended imposition of sentences,” said State Representative Linda Black.
Black said right now, punishments for DWI offenses vary depending on the judge. She is proposing a bill that would mean persistent offenders have to obtain a special kind of license plate for their vehicle.
“It would require that if it is your second DWI offense, you’d have to turn in your license plates, get an identifiable to law enforcement license plate so that law enforcement has reasonable suspicion to pull you over,” Black said.
Some states already have similar laws. For example, in Ohio, if you are a repeat DWI offender, your license plates are yellow and red in color.
“We want to make sure that people are not targeted, but on the other end of that spectrum, those people who have established a persistent offense are more likely to re-offend and we have to keep them off the roadways,” Black said.
Larry Acton, a Boone County man, was a six time offender over the course of 17 years. Acton was in and out of jail and ordered to attend rehab while in jail in 2009. In 2011, he was let out on probation.
“We have a huge problem that we need to deal with,” Black said. “We owe it to those individuals who have lost their loved ones to say that the state of Missouri is going to protect life on the roadways.”
With another big drinking holiday coming up, Black said this is the perfect time to talk about the issue.
“I think anytime we come upon a holiday weekend, one that involves a lot of drinking as most of our holidays do, I think it’s a time to reflect and say, ‘What can we do this holiday to stop those DWI fatalities from happening?'” Black said.
Between Tuesday night and Monday, the Boone County Sheriff’s Department will have DWI checkpoints set up around the county to crack down on drunk driving as St. Patrick’s day approaches.
The Columbia Police Department will also have checkpoints starting Friday.