Drunk driving is a huge problem, sure – but if we were serious about it, then it wouldn’t exist. We have it in our power to marginalize this behavior to just a sliver of the population, but we don’t do it, and I think I know why.
Seatbelts are mandatory. You have to put them on as a safety measure – it’s the law. That law is among other things about protecting you – not even other people, just you – and I don’t know how much money it costs to install the seat belts, but you’re sure not allowed to build or sell a car without them. Most people consider it a reasonable public safety policy.
So if you want to get rid of drunk driving – which is more about protecting other people, than protecting the actual drunk driver – and you want to get rid of it permanently, then require all cars to be fitted with a breathalyzer on the ignition. Every single one of them, and yes, even yours.
Okay, not quite – you’d be able to buy a Breathalyzer Beater from Waterbeds and Stuff in no time, a little air compressor which would mimic clean breath, so the problem would really only be marginalized. So on top of that, make the punishment for a single DUI very serious indeed.
Listen, I’m not even necessarily advocating this course of action. I’m just pointing out that all we have to do is really, seriously outlaw it, instead of “outlawing it.” There’s a reason why people don’t rob banks but they feel pretty cool about hopping in the car half in the bag and ripping down the road. One of them carries serious punishments, one of them carries serious inconveniences.
Bank robbery equals jail. A DUI equals a few thousand dollars.
And wait a tick, I wonder if that few thousand dollars is exactly what is so ineffective about the way we deal with DUIs today? If you made thousands of dollars every time someone got caught driving drunk, would you want people to stop doing it?
The drunk driving problem is either as severe as we’re told it is, or it’s not. If it is, then I would expect a serious response to it, like the one I just outlined.
If it’s not, then I would expect a bunch of hot air and ambulance chasing. I would expect a lot of solemn, tearful soapboxing every time someone dies in an alcohol-related crash, followed by NO significant changes in the law. I would expect constant, straight-faced dramatization of the topic by troopers on television. And I would expect completely asinine, revenue-generating, transparently posturing attempts at publicly addressing it.
Like DUI checkpoints. Check out this story – 7 Arrested At St. Patrick’s Day DUI Checkpoints – in which we learn that 727 cars were stopped at a checkpoint in Hilliard, Ohio. And they caught 7 drunk drivers. On St. Patrick’s Day.
Listen to me. I can find you seven drunk drivers on St. Patrick’s Day in a half an hour. You can even do it like a scavenger hunt – I’ll find you a drunk soccer mom, a drunk college student, a drunk real estate agent, a drunk old man, a drunk attorney, a drunk bus driver, and a drunk midget. All of them driving cars.
Give me a full hour for a specific order like that, but I’ll be back with ’em all right.
One percent. You’re telling me that one percent of the drivers on the road were drunk that day. In Hilliard.
Listen – I’ve driven around in Hilliard on many average Friday nights, and I can assure you – a solid one third of my fellow drivers are typically good and hammered. You can feel the Angry Driving and the impatience and the artificial confidence, hanging around you like a fog. On St. Patrick’s Day, I’d have to think it’s at least as bad.
Seven of them. How many cops were there, working overtime? And suppose you guys just drove around on overtime instead, pulled people over?
Surely you can tell when a dangerously drunk person is driving a car down the street, right? I mean, if they’re indistinguishable from sober people, then what’s the problem?
It’s very clear to me that our laws are not designed to curb drunk driving, or even stop it. If they were designed for that, then the punishments would be much more harsh, and it would be illegal to start your car without proving you’re sober.
The truth is, drunk drivers provide a ton of revenue to every state and local police force in America. They’re like enormous, wheeled cheeseburgers rolling through your town. Just think about the wisdom of a DUI checkpoint and tell me that’s all about stopping drunk drivers.
I mean, they announce it beforehand. There’s going to be a DUI checkpoint at Leap and Cemetary roads, so don’t drive drunk through that specific intersection, or State Troopers Will Nab You With Electric Guitar Music Playing, Because They’re Crackin’ Down.
These seven people who were caught at the announced DUI checkpoint – I don’t know, I have to think that folks with that level of criminal skills, well, they were probably going to get caught pretty soon, anyway. And then 23 others were cited, mostly for “driver’s license violations.”
Good work, boys. People driving around town without their paperwork in order, flagrantly defying the expiration dates on their licenses – WHEN WILL THE MADNESS STOP?!
The checkpoints always lead to more non-DUI arrests than actual DUIs. You might want to employ air quotes – “DUI” Checkpoints. The main function of these things is to use the public’s knee-jerk passion against drunk driving to allow cops to pull people over for no reason at all, and check their papers.
Devices in our cars which force us to prove we are sober before we start them – might sound a bit draconian to you, might not. But stopping citizens for no reason at all and then arresting them for whatever you can find, well that sounds a bit draconian, too. So if we’re going to be draconian, howza about we do it my way.
You know, the way which will actually result in a drastic reduction in drunk driving around the entire country, nearly eliminating it within just a few years. We can even require that the devices get made in America, throw up a few factories, put some Americans to work making them.
Instead, they’re fishing for money. That’s absolutely all they are doing. One percent of drivers on St. Patrick’s Day? Let me tell you – that was the soberest sample of Ohio drivers anywhere in the city for most of that day. We’re always hearing that the departments are having budget problems – what on Earth would they do if next year, nobody drove drunk at all?
I’m very serious about that – wouldn’t that cripple them?
And while fifteen cops were standing around peeking into sober people’s cars, wondering why nobody was coming to their DUI Checkpoint Party when they’d gone to all the trouble of throwing it together, every single alternate route around them was no doubt pulsing with grinning, green-clad carloads, singing that one cab driver song with beer cans flying out the windows. “Oh baby you…. you got what I need… You say he’s just a friend, you say he’s just a friend..”
Let me ask you something – are you MADD enough to breathe into your ignition every time you start your car? Or do we only want to stop drunk driving to the extent that we can do so without inconveniencing ourselves in the slightest?
These checkpoints are great for making us all feel like we’re MADD as hell. But I can assure you – serial drunk drivers laugh at them. Literally laugh. And sometimes it feels like the cops and city treasurers laugh, too – all the way to the bank.