Thursday, January 6, 2011

One Step Further – Let’s Abolish DUI Laws Altogether

As soon as I finished my post on the disturbing new legal development where police officers can forcibly take your blood at a DUI checkpoint against your will (and against the Constitution), I found this article by’s Radley Balko on the subject of DUI laws.

Do I have timing or what?

Balko’s post notes that Austin’s police chief, Art Acevedo, wants to create a new law: “driving while ability impaired.” This would allow him to arrest someone whose Blood Alcohol Content is below .08%, which current law forbids without additional evidence of impairment. It’s an idea that’s attracting supporters such as the Chairman of the Texas State Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee, John Whitmire (D-Houston).

There is only one way for this new law to work: abolish the old DUI law and do away with checkpoints altogether.

There are many sound, logical reasons for this new approach to eliminating dangerous driving, as Balko points out. Really, this approach would be a return to common sense, as the institution of DUI checkpoints is a relatively recent development.

This new law would take into account the variations in peoples’ response to alcohol. As I noted, setting an artificially low threshold ignores the fact that two drinks in two different people will have two different effects. Some folks can’t handle one drink, while experienced drinkers can safely drive after three.

Again, I must stress that I’m not advocating driving while drunk. But you know that already. Safe driving is a passion of mine, as my exemplary record behind the wheel demonstrates. Learning how to drive on a military installation as I did teaches you respect for traffic laws. On a personal note, I’ve lost far more friends to auto accidents than I care to recall, dating back to high school. So, yeah, I advocate safe, responsible driving at all times and in all places.

Balko goes on to note that DUI checkpoints take officers off the highways where they are most needed to find more impaired drivers. When you consider that they’re ineffective when compared to the money and man-hours consumed and are constitutional violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, there’s lots of valid reasons why this approach to getting impaired drivers off the roads isn’t working.

We are smarter than this.

Police should start concentrating on reckless driving regardless of cause. I’ve seen perfectly sober folk who couldn’t drive well and nearly caused accidents due to their disregard for safety.  I once told a guy to pull over so I could get out of his car, he drove so carelessly. I walked back home and never rode with him again after that.

You have probably known a few bad drivers in your life, too. My point is that you need not be impaired in order to drive recklessly. Our police should concentrate their efforts on improving public safety by getting those reckless drivers off the road. They aren’t hard to find, we see them every day. We need to free up those officers currently confined to DUI checkpoints and put them back on the roads where they can be far more effective.

In fact, if we did away with DUI laws, we still have laws against reckless driving. Perhaps all that's needed is a refinement of existing law. However, the lawyers' lobby would start screeching that doing away with laws is dangerous and a threat to public safety, which is bullshit, especially when you realize the amount of money lawyers make with the current DUI laws. They want to guarantee their income at the expense of our freedom. They're funny like that.

The current method is like fishing with dynamite. Sure, you’ll catch a lot of fish, but it’s illegal and you end up with a lot of fish you don’t want or need. You’re doing far more harm than good.

I’ll let Mr. Balko sum it up:

Doing away with the specific charge of drunk driving sounds radical at first blush, but it would put the focus back on behavior, where it belongs. The punishable act should be violating road rules or causing an accident, not the factors that led to those offenses. Singling out alcohol impairment for extra punishment isn’t about making the roads safer. It’s about a lingering hostility toward demon rum.
And government control over you. But you already knew that, too.

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