Opinionated Mummy puts drink driving laws into perspective after the arrest of a recidivist drink-driver for driving several times over the “legal limit.”
She notes that the the only problem mentioned in reports of the arrest was “was that the young driver had a substance in her system. There is no mention of bad driving, no destruction of property, no lives were taken or recklessly endangered. The crime was simply to having the wrong amount of a substance in her system while driving a car.”
So why is that a crime? While you think about that, here’s her last few thought-provoking paragraphs:
“Yes, I know the preferred, acceptable (knee jerk) reaction is drunk driving has to be illegal because the chance of causing an accident rises dramatically when you drink. But, as I said earlier, we have a legal limit, so clearly a little bit of alcohol in our body is deemed to not be dangerous. Why is a legal framework dealing with chance?
“The law should deal with a person's actions as they damage a person or property. Leave the issue of "chance" to insurance companies to determine as their competitive point of difference. The effect of the substance in the system is something that is perhaps more relevant for the sentencing judge. . . “
That’s true. Driving dangerously causing an accident while under the influence should be at the upper end of sentencing. It should get the book thrown at you. But driving safely, no matter how much you’ve ingested, should not.
“[I acknowledge] that there is enough evidence to suggest that a person's driving ability may be impaired by substances, but that there are many other factors that can cause a person to drive poorly, such as fatigue or emotional distress. Will there come a point where the law imposes legal fatigue or distress limits?”
If you accept the principle of laws against alcohol-impaired driving (that the chance of crashing is higher) then logically you should also support laws against driving while tired -- or while emotionally distressed, intellectually challenged or sexually aroused. And how do you answer Lindsay Mitchell’s question: “Should a man with a predictable propensity for domestic violence when inebriated be charged for getting drunk whether or not he beats the missus?” Not so clear now, huh.
“You had a choice as to whether or not you read this blog, do please do not post a comment calling me insensitive because your mother/brother/friend etc was killed by a drunk driver. Any person responsible for killing someone else is guilty of manslaughter or murder and should be punished accordingly. My issue is that we are criminalising and punishing people because of a level of substance in their body, not because of a true crime that harms/kills people or damages property. Anyone driving is capable of causing an accident, whether they are drunk or sober. Some drivers can drive with substances in their body and not cause any accident at all. How can we make a judgement call through law that they, and the people around them, were just ‘lucky’?”