Excellent thoughts. As a non-car owner for 40+ years, I've developed a different perspective than most. I no longer 'wink-wink' at bad drivers. As you say, driving impaired or irresponsibly should be punished severely. Perhaps as severely as we would a drunk gun-owner firing his weapon on a crowded street and hitting or killing people...both are deadly assaults!
Months or years of jail time is the answer; suspending a license is ineffective, and rarely results in keeping the drunk off the road. Tiger Woods' accident yesterday was his third irresponsible driving infraction. Perhaps if he'd served six months of jail time for his previous DUI he would have learned something....and still be playing at The Masters this spring!
The guy who killed Dad spent his 6 years in jail (after fleeing the country and Interpol tracking him down eventually in Gibraltar). Didn’t really make a difference to us, other than keeping him off the road, but I guess it did raise the bar for other offenders.
He never really showed significant remorse, blamed it on the weather rather than 2 large pints after a previous night of drinking, and wasn’t going around to schools telling his cautionary tale.
There’s certainly a need for a societal shift. The threat of jail time isn’t generally much of a deterrent, especially if it only comes after a crash—these offenders don’t think they’re going to crash, so why would they care about the consequences of one? The North American attitude of “I’m just having a beer or two, I’m ok to drive” is a real problem.
‘Bent, I didn’t know about your dad. I’m so sorry. He sounds like a wonderful man.
One of the subtle things I’ve noticed is that our local newspaper stopped publishing the names of people charged with impaired driving years ago. A journalist friend said she received threats of lawsuits from accused impaired drivers worried about their reputations. If I weren’t already deterred by the risk of harming other humans and myself (not to mention breaking the law), I would certainly be deterred by the thought of my friends seeing my name in the media.
The same newspaper is happy to publish the names of other alleged criminals - 20-somethings who attempt to rob a gas station or sell drugs. I think one of the issues is that impaired drivers often don’t fit people’s image of a “criminal”. They can be local Moms or respected professionals - people who remind many community members of themselves or their friends. Some people can remember a time in their life when they took a risk with alcohol but almost nobody has considered robbing a store. So there often is a different, more forgiving attitude toward impaired drivers if they don’t cause a collision. That’s one of the things that needs to change. They don’t all have to go to jail necessarily (although even one night would be memorable) but long licence suspensions and mandatory education programs could help.
In Ontario, almost everyone knows that if you go 50 kph over the limit, the police can take your car and leave you at the side of the road. That sort of thing is a useful deterrent for some. But as you say, there are people who don’t believe there will be consequences for their actions. That’s how I would describe the man who killed my father-in-law. He honestly believed that life just happened to him and he couldn’t influence it. He’d just had “bad luck” every time he’d been arrested for criminal driving offences (3 times). I wanted to think of him as a monster but after listening to him testify, I realized that he was just pathetic. He should have had his license taken away years earlier.
At some military bases there are signs at the entrance that say, "N days since the last DWI" or something like that. If someone is caught driving under the influence on base then the number resets (commanders hate seeing the number go back to 0), the driver is not allowed to drive on base for a year, and in some cases the driver is also the person who has to walk to the sign each day and change the number. Each of those things are a deterrent but obviously not enough to prevent the problem since they still need the signs.
Interesting! Like so many things - like vaccinations - a collection of imperfect solutions can make a big difference without solving the problem completely.
If the member of the military also lost a rank or paid a large fine, maybe that would create a norm where a friend would be more inclined to say, "Hey bud, don't get behind the wheel. You'll thank me later."
If we knew that a teacher friend would be suspended from their job temporarily and have their name splashed across the media, it might be easier to speak up and ask them not to drive home.
If these consequences seem too severe, imagine what would be appropriate for a different, less harmful crime like robbing a store.
All of this would be easier if inexpensive breathalyzer tests were widely available, e.g. for party hosts.
The man who killed 'Bent's Dad would not have been deterred by much. It was as if he lacked the synapses to connect his actions to their consequences. He was middle-aged with a life partner, a good job as an engineering technologist and two previous criminal driving convictions. He had a lot to lose and he ended up losing it all, including his life in Canada because he was deported due to his three criminal convictions. I think people like him can only be stopped by external controls - a breathalyzer on his steering wheel that would prevent him from starting the car. Or a huge fine for pub owners who serve someone almost a litre of beer for lunch, then send them out to the parking lot.
There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle. As private individuals, we can work to establish different norms. Our friends, the Gallys, posted signs around their annual Christmas party with taxi phone numbers and requests that guests not drive if they've been drinking. Other friends invited guests to stay over if they planned to drink. (This is all in past tense because Covid!) These things made it easier to have those conversations.
Those of us who drink can help by watching our own consumption, watching our guests' consumption and being brave enough to speak to people who shouldn't be driving. Other things we can do include not sharing locations of police breathalyzer stops on social media, asking that names of impaired drivers be published, and using accurate words like "alleged criminal" to deter those who care about such things.
Oh man Bash, what a sad story.
I think public shaming can be effective for some personalities; too bad the paper backed down on those. Sounds like the guy who killed your FIL wouldn’t have been bothered by that and probably still doesn’t feel any guilt or responsibility. I think you’re right about the external actions, like a breathalyzer on the car, but I’ve heard people can get around those (have a friend breathe then swap places, etc). It’s a real, sad, problem.
Agreed - no solution is perfect. :( I like the Pandemic Swiss Cheese Model showing how a bunch of imperfect solutions can combine to provide a pretty decent solution. We could apply this type of thinking to a lot of problems including impaired driving.