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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Are strict DUI laws a good idea?

    Two strikes and you’re out

    I can’t watch TV without seeing at least three different commercials for a DUI attorney. Attorneys who will defend you if you were drinking and driving, who will find some technicality in the processing of your case that gets you off scot-free. Technicalities like being too old or out of shape to properly perform a field sobriety test or radio interference affecting the Breathalyzer (God forbid that the phlebotomist was not properly trained). Getting off on a little detail here or a misspelled word there is common in the justice system; lawyers are trained to be as creative and thorough as possible in finding that undotted i.

    This is simply outrageous. While I will be quick to agree that getting in trouble sucks, and that finding some way out of it is always welcome, I still can make a stand when it comes to drinking and driving.

    Consider a little bit of math. A normal car weighs about 3,000 pounds, and most speed limits are around 45 mph. Assuming that the driver is going the limit, the car they are driving has about 135,000 lbs. of energy. If someone has trouble walking, then how are they going to control that kind of power? A car is a massive chunk of hot metal that will take down anything that gets in the way. When you are drunk, you just can’t see what’s in your way.

    Driving is a privilege that just about anyone can take advantage of. You may have the right to own a car, but being able to use it on public roads all depends on the law. Driving a car is a commitment that requires attention.All the other cars on the road are now at risk. Kids on the sidewalk, stores near the street, poles everywhere – it’s a jungle out there, and why the hell would you try to navigate it impaired?

    The laws as they are, for that select few who actually get stuck with a conviction, are interpreted weakly. A first-time offender is looking at a night in jail, about $500 in fines, and a 90-day suspension of his or her license. The second time around will bring double fines, a year without a license and a month in jail. They also get the infamous ignition interlock device, the handy little tool that checks blood-alcohol content before it lets you start the car. We can do better than this. Three drinks should be enough to keep your keys in your pocket and your butt in a taxi. (Three is about what it takes to hit that .08 percent BAC limit, depending on the person.) The first time people screw this up, a night in jail and 90 days without a license might knock some sense into them. It’s when they do it again that they should lose their privileges.

    Second-time offenders should get no leeway and no tolerance. Because you don’t need a license to physically drive a car, taking it away will not stop everyone from just driving anyway. The government has no place putting a breath device in to keep you from driving drunk. It still is a choice you have/get to make. So do what then?

    Make them pay out the ass. And then put that ass in jail. Follow the law to a T.

    Bring those fines up to mandatory thousands. Losing that kind of money is a great deterrent to not get in the car. A felony DUI (the third offense or a DUI on a suspended license) carries a maximum fine of $150,000. Make them pay it. If fewer people get off of DUI charges, it just might send a message to people who drink and drive on a regular basis.

    That people who had the poor judgment to risk their lives, and moreso the lives of every other person on the road, can continue to drive is simply ridiculous. So don’t let them.

    -Alan Fullmer

    A smokescreen for tyranny

    Police task forces have swept through Tucson. Over Memorial Day weekend, police stopped an estimated 1,300 cars at sobriety checkpoints and made 17 arrests. The weekend before that, they stopped 2,206 and arrested 44.

    Why the added measures? Because the DUI “”problem,”” our rulers say, is getting worse.

    Everyone knows that drunk drivers are a problem. On any given year, one will hear that DUIs are on the rise, that stricter penalties are needed to combat them. It is, seemingly, the one issue everyone agrees on.

    Behind this seemingly simple issue lie a host of unanswered questions. They are unanswered because they are seldom, if ever, raised.

    Despite the dire warnings we are regularly pummeled with, alcohol-related accidents are actually down, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. In 2001 they represented 6.15 percent of all crashes in Arizona; in 2005 they were down to 5.49 percent.

    Think about that. If “”drunken”” drivers represent the greatest threat on the road, why are they responsible for little more than 5 percent of all crashes?

    I use the quote marks because we have no way of knowing how many people arrested on DUI charges are in fact intoxicated, because the sobriety tests used by police are so unreliable.

    According to a 2005 Washington Post article, Spurgeon Cole, a Georgia-based forensic scientist, performed the standard sobriety tests on 21 sober students and showed the film to a group of police officers, who said that nearly half of the students were drunk. “”These tests are absolutely worthless,”” Cole told the Post.

    Why is there such a vast, unbridgeable gap between the punishments meted out to “”drunk”” drivers and those meted out to mere reckless drivers? You can weave in and out of a lane, cut off another driver, wrap your car around a telephone pole – and still you will not have your life ruined, your insurance skyrocket, your job put at risk, your very existence smeared over with the scarlet letters of DUI.

    Reckless drivers escape this social stigma altogether. As any Tucson driver knows, our roads are packed with drivers who appear to have forgotten half the rules of the road the day after their driving test. This, I suspect, is the real reason our roads are so unsafe.

    Why do we not demand safer roads and safer cars instead of attributing our unsafe roads to drunken drivers?

    Even the language we use to talk about DUIs reveals the undemocratic habits of mind that we have adopted. “”Driving is a privilege,”” moralists remind us. No, it’s not; it’s a right. To be sure, it’s a right that must sometimes be abridged, for reasons of community safety. But to call it a “”privilege”” suggests that we drive only at the discretion of our rulers.

    Why have Americans been so willing to stand for such an outrageous violation of their privacy and their civil liberties? Because those who rule us know all too well that the easiest way to rule the citizenry is to whip them into a mob frenzy, to turn them against one another and to lead them into hollers for blood.

    None of this is to say that driving under the influence of alcohol is permissible. It isn’t.

    But the war on DUIs has not made our roads a bit safer. It has done little more than bully the populace with random roadblocks and near-random arrests, life-destroying penalties and undemocratic “”zero tolerance”” policies.

    And yet the tyrants behind this war on privacy are not satisfied. They long for harsher penalties still. The fact that we stand for it and even cheer it on is a very sad commentary on our democracy.

    -Justyn Dillingham

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