Why DUI laws aren’t getting drunks off the road

Anyone who has been a reader here for very long knows that I believe current DUI laws are ineffective at getting drunks off the road. You also know it’s not because the laws aren’t strict enough, it’s because getting drunks off the road is not their purpose.

You can’t know the purpose of any human action until you see results it produces. Then look to its supporters and ask if they are happy with the results. Don’t just go by what they say. If the results are bad but the supporters are unwilling to try something different, then they must be OK with those bad results.

The results of the current DUI laws in America, which are all pretty similar by Federal mandate, are that many drivers who are not actually impaired are caught and convicted of DUI while at the same time the recidivist drunks that are the real problem are not being taken off the road. Here is just one recent story that demonstrates that very thing, Driver gets no prison time for fifth DUI. It’s not an outlier. There are many such stories.

There are also cases where a person who knows they are impaired, tries to do the right thing and not drive, end up getting a DUI anyway. Some states define “driving” as either actually moving the vehicle or merely having “dominion and control” over the vehicle. There have been several cases where a person who had been drinking came out of a bar and, knowing they were impaired, attempted to sleep it off in the back seat instead of driving home. Later, after the parking lot has emptied, a police officer stops to investigate a lone vehicle in the parking lot after closing time. If the sleeper has the keys to the car he has dominion and control over the vehicle. If he’s still over the limit he can be arrested and charged with drunk driving even though he never moved the car an inch.

Regular drinkers soon know this. They learn that they are less likely to get caught if they just start the car and drive home. In these cases, it’s the DUI law that put another drunk driver on the road. When lawmakers and government lobbyists are unwilling to change any of this, we know they are OK with these results.  We know they are lying when they say lowering the legal limit will get drunks off the road. The legal limit is not based in sceince but in politics. We know they approve of the current regime of drunk driving laws for some reason other than what they say.

We should conclude from all this that the real purpose of DUI laws is not getting drunks off the road. The real purpose is to get as many convictions as possible. Convictions put lots of additional revenue into government coffers. Insurance companies get to increase rates on drivers that are not necessarily a higher risk. Police officers are given an easier track to advancement. The do-gooders at MADD get psychic benefits.

Thus current DUI laws are making these people and institutions happy. But they aren’t doing much for the driving public because they aren’t getting drunks off the road. That won’t ever happen until the DUI laws are changed to making actual impairment the standard and not the technical and flawed results of a breathalyzer. It’s unlikely to happen because an effective DUI law would not be as profitable as the current regime, nor would it offer the neurotic ladies at MADD the psychological rewards they crave.

An effective DUI law would arrest and convict many fewer people, but those arrested would more likely be the ones who are the real problem. They could then be subjected to meaningful punishment that would actually stop them from driving. For those who cannot be stopped any other way, it would mean prison time until they no longer present a danger to innocent life.

Disclosure: I have never been arrested for drunk driving and I never will be because I do not drink and drive.

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