Drunk Drivers

Drunk Drivers

Just so everyone knows, we are living in the year 2016.  It’s not 1928.  And, it’s not 1956.  And, in case you’ve been living under a rock and you never watch the news or read a newspaper, there are millions upon millions of tax payer dollars spent these days on campaigns to eliminate or at least minimize drunk driving.  Further, there are more anti-drinking and driving groups and organizations than one could shake a mangled steering wheel at.  So far in 2015, in Nova Scotia, where I live, drinking and driving arrests are up 23% over last year and 32% higher than the national average, per capita.  So, here’s my question – what in the hell is going on?

Let’s take a few steps back.  In the 50s, 60s and even into the 70s, drinking and driving offences were not typically considered to be serious offences, even though people were getting mangled and killed on a routine basis.  Since the 1970s and 1980s, the number of impaired driving charges and convictions had actually decreased.  But, since the 1990s, the rates have actually increased, showing that the current penalties are not getting the message across.   And, yes, I know there are more drivers on the roads these days, but there has also been one hell of a lot of public outcry about the issue as well.   One would think the terms would balance out somehow.

Since the new millennium, there has been approximately 53,000 Canadian drivers charged with impaired driving.  (I could only image how many in the US, which has 10 times more people.)  There are approximately 3,000 Canadians killed on our roads each year, with, on average 1200 (40%) of those killed by drunk drivers.  That’s three people killed per day or one every eight hours by drunk or high, irresponsible morons.  This does not include those people who have been badly injured or permanently disabled, or disfigured.   You know… the ones who must now eat their food through a straw or have someone come to their house and wipe their ass for them.

Just in Ontario alone, in 2005, 17,000 drinking and driving incidents were reported by police.  In the same year, 174 people were killed and 3,852 were injured by a drunk (or whacked out on dope) driver.   That’s just one province in just one year.  WTF????????

Imagine how many others have been affected by these numbers – families and friends of those injured or killed.  Imagine the cost to our health care system… billions of dollars each and every year.  That money could be well spent elsewhere.   And, consider that each time a police cruiser, fire truck or ambulance is dealing with another drunk idiot, those emergency responders cannot be sent to a call where people who are not drunk idiots really need help.

I listen to our local news quite a lot.   It seems that nearly every couple of days or so, someone gets charged with one of the various drunk driving offences.  Sometimes it’s a major crash where people are hurt or killed, sometimes it’s someone getting nailed at a R.I.D.E. check, sometimes someone is stopped for a simple Highway Traffic Act violation and the officer suspects the driver is pissed.  And, sometimes it’s just some dumbass who wraps his or her car around a tree.  Last week there were four charges laid in my local area of Nova Scotia.  And, here’s the scary part – those four zornks are just the ones who got caught.   How many more drivers were behind the wheel pissed to the gills?  The ones who didn’t get caught.  Plenty, I’m sure.  This is crazy – in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where I used to live, a 71 year old woman was hammered and smashed into the guard rail at the hospital.  She was there picking someone up who had been discharged from the hospital.   It’s not just the wild and crazy party animals who are drinking and driving.  It’s your lawyer, your MPP, your teacher, your neighbor, your pastor, your kid’s baseball coach, your son, your daughter and the little old lady from down the street.

The drinking and driving laws are federal, meaning that if someone gets charged and convicted of a drunk driving offence, (there are four of them) the province has nothing to do with it.  For example, you don’t get any demerit points added (or taken away) to your driving record.  Using Ontario as an example, for a careless driving offence, one would accumulate six demerit points.  To be clear, if you get convicted of a motor vehicle offence in Ontario, you don’t “lose points.”  You all start at zero and when you do something stupid like speeding you “get points.”  There are no points for drinking and driving.  Rather, you would get a criminal record.  Just like an assault charge, or fraud or motor vehicle theft… those are all criminal violations.  But, it’s obvious that many people either don’t give a shit, or are just too goddam stupid to know what that means.

If you end up with a criminal record it could easily affect your job, career or whatever you do to make money so you can pay for your mortgage or rent and buy food.  And, pay for your car payments…  You will have a very, very hard time leaving the country too, if you’re allowed to at all.   And, your vehicle insurance premiums will go up, at least double and maybe even triple for three years or more.  But, again, who cares about all that?  Party on!

In terms of cash paid in a first time drunk driving offence, by the time you pay for your fine of $1,500 – $2,000 and any lawyer costs incurred, you could be easily into the ten grand range.   And, you’ll be walking to work for at least one year, maybe more, depending on what the circumstances surrounding your incident were.

In recent years, the province of Ontario has actually stiffened up its suspensions for those drivers who blow a “warn” into a roadside screening device.  It used to be that if you blew a yellow light or “warn,” (between 50 mg% and 80 mg%) you’d get a 12 hour suspension from driving.  Now, the minimum is three days and you could be walking for up 30 days.

So, why in the hell are people STILL drinking and driving?  I’m not sure, of course, but I have a hunch… the laws are STILL not strict enough.

If you knew, for example, that if you got convicted of first time drunk driving, you’d automatically lose your licence for five years, would you still get behind the wheel after “pounding back a few” drinks?  And, if you knew that you’d definitely be going to jail for six months, would you still drive home after “doing some shooters” at the bar?  And, if you knew that the fine was a minimum of $5,000, would you still drive home after getting “just a little tipsy” at your cousin’s wedding?  Some drivers would, but I believe that far more would not.

Here is what the laws would look like if I was in charge… and these are the minimums.

 

First Offence – no accident, no injuries

Six month jail sentence

Five year suspension from driving

$5,000 fine, minimum 

First offence- with accident and injuries

One year jail sentence

Ten year suspension from driving

$7,500 fine, minimum

Second offence – no accident, no injuries

Two year jail sentence

Lifetime suspension from driving

$7,500 fine, minimum

Second offence – with accident and injuries

Three year jail sentence

Lifetime suspension from driving

$10,000 fine, minimum

Third offence- regardless

Five year jail sentence

Lifetime suspension from driving

$15,000 fine, minimum

Fourth offence – regardless

Ten year jail sentence

$25,000 fine, minimum

 

As you can see, if a driver is convicted of one of the drinking and driving offences for a second time, he or she would be suspended from driving for the rest of their lives.  Twice and you’re done… And, in simpler terms, not three strikes and you’re out – TWO strikes and you’re out.

You might be thinking all of this is way too harsh and that my proposed penalties wouldn’t be fair for those “responsible” people who can in fact go out for dinner and “have a few drinks and be okay to drive.”  But, if you lost a family member or even a close friend because of a drunk on the road, you might think my way of thinking isn’t so nuts after all.

For the record, I have not lost a family member to drunk driving.  I know a few people who have been killed over the years, but no-one super close.  I am just sick and tired of hearing things on the news like, “A family of four was killed today as the mini-van they were riding in was hit head-on by a vehicle that was being driven by a drunk driver.”  Or, how about this one?  “A six year old girl was killed by a drunk driver today as she was on her way home from school.  She was struck while walking on the sidewalk.”

Something has to be done because what we’re doing now just ain’t working.  Obviously.

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