This article tells the familiar story of how a habitual drunk continued to drink and drive until the inevitable tragedy finally played out. It illustrates the weaknesses of our current approach to dealing with DUI: convicted DUI offenders continue drinking and driving even when they have had their licenses revoked; drunks with impaired judgment and driving abilities continue to take the wheel and to the roads despite their awareness of the possible consequences.
Prohibition is a failed enterprise. As a nation, we have tried that and it didn’t work. Punishment has limited value as a deterrent. Drunk people have poor judgment by definition and cannot be relied upon to make responsible life and death choices. Tough regulations and punishments are small consolation for a family deprived of their loved one.
Education is necessary, but despite the well publicized consequences of DUI, people, because they are human, continue to make bad choices. Sex education in schools, for instance, hasn’t improved the incidence of unplanned pregnancy or STD’s. We need to educate because it will influence a few, and we need to eliminate the excuse of ignorance completely.
Prevention is the only satisfactory and effective answer. We need to make it physically impossible to get behind the wheel of an automobile while impaired by anything: sleep deprivation, prescription pharmaceuticals, illegal drugs...as well as alcohol. The technology is in development and could be available quickly if we as a people decided it was a priority. Check this article out to see a system already under development by Nissan.
I envision a day when driver impairment detection systems like this are standard equipment in automobiles, like seat belts and air bags are now. Rachel’s seat belt did not save her life. Rachel’s air bag did not save her life. A driver impairment detection system that prevented the woman that killed my daughter from driving her deadly SUV while intoxicated would have saved Rachel’s life. Now I want the woman to suffer, as we suffer, severe, costly, painful, and permanent consequences for what she did to my daughter. But, to put it mildly, I would be so much happier if the tragedy had been prevented in the first place.
Of course, systems like this will add costs to new vehicles. Consumers, automakers and legislators will object. We have to speak louder. We have to make them look us in the eyes and explain why their money is more precious than our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
Even when, eventually, these systems are included as standard equipment, there will be a long period of time when responsible drivers who drive new vehicles will be imperiled by irresponsible drivers who still own old vehicles unequipped with the new technologies. Drunks will continue to plow their old cars into innocent, law abiding citizens. We will have to continue the fight to educate, legislate, prosecute and punish until all those old automobiles have been scrapped and DUI is no longer a threat to us and our loved ones.
There will be lots of little steps to take before this dream is achieved, but, I believe, step by step it can, must, and will be done.