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Many Colorado drunk drivers lack valid licenses

Drunk driving is a serious problem throughout Colorado. The problem runs deeper than just drunk driving, however. Analysis of data over the last two years shows that many drunk drivers are on the road with suspended, revoked or invalid licenses - if they have them at all. This means that punishment on many of these drivers may have little effect.

One recent drunk driving incident shows just how much danger Coloradans are in when on the road. In Aurora, Colorado, in March, a 40-year-old drunk driver ran a red light and struck a car driven by a teenager who was just two months away from his high school graduation. The teen was killed, and police found that the drunk driver had been previously cited for a similar incident even though he did not have a Colorado license. That same day, 10 other drivers around the state were apprehended on similar offenses.

A new law in Colorado that took effect back in January allows fist-time drunk drivers to get their license back after 30 days if they agree to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. It is hoped that this law will reduce the number of drunk driving offenses in the state.

However, these drivers should not be behind the wheel in the first place. Two news organizations looked at statewide statistics, excluding Denver, from April 2012 to April 2014, and found that of the nearly 46,000 DUI citations, nearly 11,000 (25 percent) had no valid driver's licenses. And of the total number of arrests, 20 percent of the drivers had previous DUI convictions.

Drunk drivers - whether or not they have valid drivers' licenses - do not belong on the road. The fact that they have been drinking and get behind the wheel means they may be negligent from the moment they turn the ignition switch. This is an important point for drunk driving victims who wish to hold a driver legally accountable. Evidence of intoxication regardless of license stature will strengthen a victim's case against any DUI driver.

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