Drunk driving is serious business in Missouri especially when it leads to vehicular homicide. A new law that would toughen up penalties for this crime has just sat down behind the wheel of the legislative process. Conrad Jungmann has that story from Jefferson City:
Under current law, a person who involuntarily kills someone while driving drunk can only be punished for a maximum of seven years. Representative Phil Smith, a democrat from Louisiana, Missouri says thats not enough. He has introduced a bill that would toughen the penalties for vehicular manslaughter:
Senator Joe Moseley of Columbia says that if this bill passes, it will make the penalty for vehicular homicide just as strong as an intentional murder. He is concerned that this would lower the level of concern for intentional killings.
According to Ron Beck of the Missouri State Patrol, vehicular manslaughter is a growing problem, and is considered to be one of Missouri's deadliest crimes. There were over 36,000 drunk driving arrests in 1994, and 75 arrests for vehicular homicide. The statistics for 1995 have not yet been tallied. Weldon Wilhoit, also of the State Patrol agrees that drunk driving is a serious problem in Missouri and this bill might reduce fatalities:
Don Carter, the program supervisor for chemical dependency services at Capital Region Medical Center agrees with increasing consequences for repeat offenders. But he doubts it will deter first time offenders:
Several lobbyist groups including Missouri Mothers Against Drunk Drivers support the bill. Rich Eickles, state executive director for MADD says that vehicular homicide should be treated more severely:
Representative Smith says he expects little opposition to this bill, but it still has a long way to go before it reaches the governor's desk for final approval. From the state capital. I'm Conrad Jungmann.