Op-Ed by A.R. Bunch
It’s holiday season 2019 and it’s time to talk about the number one driving mistake people make.
Some topics in our society don’t get the real attention they deserve because of the negative emotions surrounding them. To a degree this makes sense. Back in the day no one really thought twice about driving when they were tipsy. Alcohol related incidents were hardly tracked as a separate thing, and the thinking was simply, “vehicles are dangerous.” MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) waged a campaign to change that.
By singling out alcohol related accidents and constantly bringing attention to it as a source of danger, and the high price paid by innocent victims, MADD paved the way to lower legal limits, harsher penalties and expanded responsible parties. For example, most states hold bartenders liable for over serving clients turning them from enablers to the first line of defense advocating for their customers whose judgement may be impaired to seek a better way home.
This is all great, but in order to truly combat the issue, it’s always more impactful to stay grounded. The reality is that a legal limit that’s functionally zero, BUT not really zero, begs the question, “are we inviting people to think they might be okay,” when the reality is they’re gambling with fines and jail time.
If government really intended to end drunk driving wouldn’t they drop the limit to zero and require bar tenders to insist that a ride is arranged before selling a patron one drink. The Kicker Blog is not advocating for these laws, merely pointing out that 0.08 blood alcohol level is a cloudy thing to communicate to people going out for a fun evening.
Government makes a bit of coin doing a catch and release with people who make a mistake. By setting the limit at a point when the average person could probably still operate a vehicle safer than they can when driving tire or emotional, the government is almost tempting people to chance it.
To their credit MADD has shifted there marketing away from condemnation to target people who don’t see themselves as career alcoholics. The idea is to get otherwise responsible people to think responsibly and have a plan before they cut loose.
Bottom line: the goal is to raise awareness, have stiff penalties to act as a deterrent but not destroy the life of an otherwise productive member of society. That’s probable the goal of the current system, but it’s created an unofficial catch and release program. How do we as a society build in clemency without created an official free pass for the first offense?
Currently, one DUI and you’ll never obtain a CDL, NEVER. It will also deter your ability to obtain work in other fields with high standards, like law enforcement, insurance agents, financial advisers.
You slam one beer at a football game when you’re 21 and drive your inebriated friend home and you could lose access to roughly one in three fields of employment. That’s a high and lasting price to pay for a mistake that only mildly endangered people. The goal again, is to get people to make better choices. In the case above, the 21-year-old was attempting to make a good choice. Misguided though that decision was, he/she may have prevented an accident.
The Kicker Blog would like to advocate for a path to glory. The price for driving above the legal limit needs to be set apart from driving while intoxicated. The penalties for both need to be clear and applied consistently. The penalty for driving above the limit should be geared toward deterring and redemption. It could include a mandatory night in jail, fines, a vehicle breathalyzer installation, mandatory AA meetings, and a multiyear probation. However, after successful completion and a few years, the DUI should leave a person’s record.
The penalty for drunken endangerment should be punishment. It should reflect the severity of someone’s lack of judgement. After all, driving intoxicated is reckless endangerment, and one step of away from attempted manslaughter. Obviously your second offense at driving above the legal limit should be treated as a compound offense and raises to the level of driving while intoxicated.
Until these changes are made you need to know this:
You can get a DUI for as little as one drink, the penalty is far worse than you imagine, and special patrols are actively hunting for it.
If you get a DUI this holiday season, you are entitled to an attorney and you are a complete idiot if you don’t get one.
The answer, far simpler than changing that laws, is to make plans to drink OR drive. Simply don’t mix them at all. There are so many options from taxi to ride-share, carpooling, call a friend, even tow trucks that are sponsored by MADD to get your car home from the bar.
Quick TIP #1:
Don’t take a ride from a “sober stranger!” Take a friend out with you, and if for any reason you are alone at a bar, ask the bar tender to arrange a ride for you. Most bars are happy to avoid the fine they’ll pay if you leave them and get in an accident.