Does getting tough on drunk drivers work?

The sentencing of a repeat drunk driver this week is raising an ongoing question surrounding the problem of alcohol and vehicles: Does getting “tougher” on drunk driving work?

The Star Tribune reports that Douglas McCready, 40, of Bloomington, was given a 5 1/2 year prison sentence for his 13th drunk driving conviction.

“I’m guilty for what I did. I’m not gonna deny it or make any excuse for it,” he said in a Hennepin County courtroom yesterday. “I apologize for the risk I put the public in. I don’t want people to be afraid of me.”

A prosecutor said a prison sentence was appropriate because McCready had led police on a 13-mile chase in September.

As if having 12 previous convictions and still driving drunk wasn’t egregious enough.

The reality is that people like to drive drunk in Minnesota. One in seven drivers has a DWI conviction; a lot more never get caught. Every day there’s another story of someone who was killed by a drunk driver.

The state has tried lots of things to crack down. Shame doesn’t work. It has tried “whiskey plates”, which identify drivers who’ve been convicted. But there are so many whiskey plates now it’s practically the official license plate of Minnesota.

McCready’s family asked for leniency yesterday, saying his last prison term — he served two years of a four year sentence — didn’t provide the rehabilitation for his drinking problem. That suggests his latest prison stretch won’t either.

“It’s been a vicious cycle,” said his sister, Denise Puppe. “He’s a stand-up guy; he just won’t [stop] drinking.”

“You can’t get down to the real reasons for why you are the way you are,” said his wife, Rosalee McCready.

It’s a terrible situation, especially for an innocent 8-year-old son.

McCready won’t be driving drunk again until — if history is any indicator — he gets out of prison. So there’s that.

But if 13 convictions for drunk driving can’t keep a danger off the highway, what can?