Richard Tallent’s occasional blog

Zero Tolerance for DWI

A friend of a number of my friends was killed yesterday by a drunk driver. Not just any run-of-the-mill drunk, but one that had at multiple DWIs on his record.

As a result, my Facebook feed is full of calls for Texas to get stricter on sentencing for intoxication manslaughter, and comments range from “no parole” to “death penalty.”

IMHO, this may serve our collective need for revenge, but it doesn’t address the core problem — drunk drivers are generally habitual, and tough sentencing for murdering someone with their car will absolutely not deter them. When they are drunk, they don’t give a flying rat’s ass who they might hurt, and they believe themselves to have the superpower of not getting caught. So, tough sentencing only _post-manslaughter_ probably won’t save many lives.

Instead, here’s what I think Texas should do after the first offense of drunk driving:

  • Suspend their license for a year. If the driver is under 18, suspend it until they turn 19. If they are 18-20, suspend it until they are 21 or for a year, whichever is longer.
  • Within 60 days of conviction, require them to complete a 21-day, in-patient rehab program.
  • Impound all vehicles registered in their name. When their suspension ends, to get them back, they must pay to have an engine interlock device (breathalyzer) professionally installed.
  • For the next 3 years:
    • Give them a “vertical” state ID or driver’s license, which will significantly lower the chances of them getting alcohol in clubs or buying it in the store.
    • Put a code “N” on their license (interlock device required). Require car dealerships and rental companies to comply with this before providing them a vehicle.
    • If they have a TABC certification, take it away.

Last but not least, states need to come together and have reciprocity around these restrictions, so the driver can’t just get around them by moving.

With current technology, we can’t stop people from making the decision to drive drunk, but I think we can do a lot better to protect the rest of us from someone who has already made that decision once and been caught, because if we don’t, it almost certainly will happen again.

Hopefully, at some point in the future, cars will either drive themselves or at least detect impaired drivers, disable themselves, and call the police. But until then, it’s time to stop giving slaps on the wrist.


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