We have used this space to argue for tougher drunken driving laws in South Dakota, so it is with some sympathy that we note that the parents of a woman killed in a crash near Pickstown have asked Gov. Dennis Daugaard to reform the state’s DUI laws.
Maegan Spindler, 25, of Cazenovia, N.Y., and Robert Klumb, 46, of Pierre were killed July 8 when Ronald Fischer Jr., 29, of Lake Andes failed to stop at a stop sign and drove into a parking lot, killing the two U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service employees.
Fischer has pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide charges.
Spindler’s parents, Gregg and Susan Spindler, met with Daugaard’s legal counsel about reforming the state’s DUI laws. They presented a 13-point proposal to make the state a "Best in Class" model for DUI enforcement.
Among the suggestions: a 10 percent excise tax on alcoholic beverages to supplement law enforcement costs; treating first- and second-offense DUIs as felonies instead of misdemeanors; creating an “aggravated DUI” offense for incidents involving death, injury or high blood alcohol content; and asset forfeiture as an additional penalty in drunken driving convictions.
The governor’s office said it is taking the Spindlers’ proposals seriously and has forwarded their ideas to the Department of Public Safety for further study.
Among the reasons that we have favored tougher DUI laws in South Dakota are the tragic consequences that follow decisions to drive after drinking too much alcohol.
We must recognize that the state has taken strides in recent years to make its DUI laws tougher and that prosecutors take drunken driving offenses seriously. In the accident that took the life of the Spindlers’ daughter, the driver has been charged with vehicular homicide, which, if found guilty, will send Fischer to prison.
South Dakota is also taking steps to change the behavior of DUI offenders with its 24/7 Sobriety Program that allows repeat offenders to drive a vehicle only if they pass daily sobriety checks.
We are pleased to see that Gov. Daugaard is taking the Spindlers’ proposals seriously. Finding ways to reduce drunken driving incidents in South Dakota is a discussion that needs to be made.