Day by Day

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The Scarlet Letter

Back when I was in the Army, I took a DUI detection and deterrence course. Training focused on the signs that someone might be drunk, Field Sobriety Testing, other illegal drug use, and the like. There was also a small segment of the class that focused on other countries and their DUI regulations. I cannot remember which countries they talked about at this moment, but I do remember some of the punishments handed out to drunk drivers.

One country took the drunk driver, drove them 25 miles out of town, and forced them to walk home. One country tossed you in jail for a year automatically, with your spouse. That's right, if you got busted for DUI, not only did you get tossed in the hoosegow, but your spouse got tossed in the SAME JAIL CELL with you. Germany, I believe, has an automatic five-year loss of license, and one year in jail.

The point of all this is that many countries have creative ways to prevent people from driving drunk. There are laws in the USA that are creative as well, and a judge in Ohio is using those laws.

A new state law in Ohio requires judges to brand convicted drunk drivers with special "scarlet letter" license plates, with red numbers on a yellow background so other motorists will know exactly what they've done.

Though the crimson-numbered plates have been a sentencing option for the past 37 years, Ohio Municipal Judge John Adkins was one of the few to use it as punishment for DUI before the state law mandate went into effect.

I love it. I really do! If people know that a DUI arrest gives them a virtual brand that screams "I'M A DRUNK LOSER!" maybe they'll think twice about getting behind the wheel after they've had a few.

Let me clarify a bit, if I may. I have picked up the body parts left by a drunk driver. I have seen the damage that drunk driving causes. If I had the power, I would toss DUI offenders in jail, and not let them see the light of day for a full year. Approximately 15,000 people die every year from drunk driving. And it's not just the drunks who die, folks. It's people on their way home from a movie, or a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary, or some poor schmuck on his way home from work who got nailed by some drunk son-of-a-bitch that crossed the center line and plowed headfirst into a car. 140,000 people are seriously injured from drunk drivers. Not a little whiplash, not a small scratch, SERIOUSLY INJURED. Missing limbs, missing sight, missing the use of their legs because John Doe had one for the road, and one ON the road, and ... you get the point.

And if these were actually "accidents", I wouldn't be so pissed off at the drunks. But these aren't "accidents", folks. These are people to make the choice to drink themselves silly and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. These people make the CHOICE to drink and drive. They make the CHOICE to have one more before they go home. These people make the CHOICE to threaten everyone else's life by driving drunk. And no, that's not hyperbole, that's not an exaggeration. A drunk behind the wheel of a one-ton vehicle is a threat to everyone else's life. Two thousand pounds of metal, rubber and plastic rolling down the road at high speeds carries massive amounts of force with it. And when the driver cannot control that vehicle, that force could go anywhere. Including your car, or your body.

15,000 people dead. Think about that. That's an Army division. If the 4th ID was wiped out in Iraq, would America stand for it? Besides the usual anti-American Leftists and communists, no! 140,000 people seriously injured. Imagine everyone you know in a wheelchair. Or in a cast. Or getting fitted for a prosthetic arm. Then go to work, and imagine everyone THERE in a wheel chair, or a cast, or a prosthetic arm. You're not even getting close to the number of people yet.

So seeing these plates makes my heart warm, just a little bit. I WANT drunk drivers humiliated. I WANT drunk drivers tossed in jail. And if you kill someone because you're drunk, I want you in jail for the rest of your life. I want you ruined. I want to see the pain in your face every damn day, because if you choose to drink and drive, you choose to threaten everybody on the road. Nobody holds a gun to your head and forces you to drink. Nobody makes you get behind the wheel when you're drunk. It is PERSONAL CHOICE.

Hell, let's get all the states to adopt the "scarlet letter" plates. It would be a small step towards removing drunks off the road.

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