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DUI Trouble in Missoula

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By Tom Diddel

The recent arrest of a Missoula mother for driving while intoxicated with her six-year-old son is just another incident in a long string of horrific stories highlighting Montana’s DUI problems.

In a KPAX news article, witnesses to the accident stated that, “Jana Lorenz’s Grand Am was speeding and did not stop for a blinking red light. They say Lorenz’s car was traveling too fast for the right turn and ended up crashing through a fence and then hitting the home.” Fortunately, the child suffered only minor injuries.

In a separate occurrence, NBC Montana reported another DUI arrest last weekend. According to the news story the driver “…reportedly took out a few mailboxes and hit a parked car before he gave up and was arrested.” Again, no one was seriously injured.

However, the recent history of Missoula DUIs has had far more tragic results.

In February of 2011, Rachel Millhouse’s vehicle was hit and she was killed by Joshua Jacob-Allen Thielbar. Thielber was a multiple DUI offender and, according to KGVO1290 News Radio, was sentenced to just a 20 year suspended sentence.

Evening on Higgins Avenue in Downtown Missoula.

In November of last year, Brian Holm of Lolo struck and killed a pedestrian on Brooks Street in Missoula. According to the Billings Gazette, “Missoula County District Court Judge Dusty Deschamps sentenced Holm to 30 years in prison with 15 suspended, but delayed sending him to prison pending an appeal.” There have been many stories similar to these in recent Missoula history, each uniquely tragic.

The solution to Missoula and Montana’s DUI problem is not one that will be easily found or quickly solved. However, there is hope.

Montana has recently legislated stricter DUI laws. A KXLH news story explains the changes and how lawmakers hope they will discourage repeat DUI offenders. Proactive approaches have also taken aim at giving impaired individuals alternatives to getting behind the wheel.

A Zoo107.5 article describes one such service dubbed UCallus, which aims to get drivers “home safely, and back to [their] car when necessary.” The University of Montana started running late night buses from Missoula’s downtown area to the University District named UDASH. Missoula has also developed a DUI Task Force to deal with the multiple facets of this problem.

While people will continue to drink in excess, it is the hope of Montana’s citizens and law enforcement that people who do drink will make the responsible decision not to drive while impaired.

The problem will likely persist, but the reduction of impaired drivers through transportation alternatives, harsher consequences, and anti-drunk driving campaigns is the first step in diminishing the tragedies resulting from this crisis.

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