Posted: May 16, 2012 9:59 AM by Phil Buck (KPAX News)
Updated: May 16, 2012 10:39 AM
MISSOULA- We took a closer look at the roots of Montana's drinking and driving culture during part one of Phil Buck's Special Assignment series. The more we looked at the issue, the more we found that no one*is completely safe from the consequences of drunk driving.
"All my career I've really detested drunk drivers. Now I hate them," Missoula County Sheriff Carl Ibsen told us.
He has good reason for his feelings as a drunk driver killed his wife back in 2009.
"You can't imagine ever being on the receiving end, being the victim. You read about it, we deal with it on the roads all the time, but you never quite imagine you'll be the one getting that phone call," Ibsen recalled.
But Ibsen says his wife wasn't the only victim of that particular DUI crash.
"It's not just the victim's side that's impacted. His life and his family's has been affected dramatically also. Everybody's victims."
Ibsen supports tougher DUI laws to help scare people out of drinking and driving, but not everyone feels that alone can solve the problem.
"Enforcement alone isn't going to get it done. Treatment alone isn't going to get it done. They have to work together. It's the safety of our families out there," Missoula County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant Rob Taylor explained.
Treatment in particular, according to some experts, can help address the more serious, repeat DUI offenders we see here in Montana.
"There is a serious need for alcohol and drug treatment programs in our state. When people get out there and they get their 10th, 11th, even 12th DUI - as you read on the news - it's not because they haven't been taken to task. It's not for lack of laws or law enforcement, it's for lack of treatment programs at that point," Montana Statewide DUI Task Force Facilitator Lonie Hutchison said.
She added Montana is starting to take steps in the right direction, something that Ibsen agrees with, but the challenge that lies ahead for both of them will be changing the way Montanans think and act when it comes to drinking and driving.
Montana's DUI task forces have spearheaded efforts to not only add treatment program opportunities around the state, but also to increase education efforts on drinking and driving. Last year's Montana legislature also approved the state's 24-7 Sobriety Act which aims specifically to keep tabs on repeat DUI offenders.