It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for celebration and reflection. No doubt there will be lots of both during the next 24 hours. But when it comes to the celebrating, you can count on one message – the same one that gets repeated each holiday season: ‘Don’t drink and drive.’
The pleas will come from police and other dedicated organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In fact, both groups have been pushing the cause hard since the beginning of the holiday season, but with New Year’s Eve here, we thought it ought to be heard at least one more time.
Some revellers will heed this advice while others, despite all the public announcements and pleas from the families and loved ones of former victims of drunk driving, will not. Sadly and certainly, there will be a few innocent people injured or possibly even killed again this holiday season.
The fact that these well publicized campaigns have been ongoing for decades and have met with only limited success should deliver a message to everyone – not just those who choose to drive drunk: If the punishment for getting caught continues to fail as a deterrent, and the possibility of killing someone won’t lead to someone having second – albeit impaired – thoughts before reaching for the keys, maybe it is time for society to rethink our tact.
Every week without fail Journal Pioneer reporters travel the block or two to the Prince County Court House to find more people convicted of impaired driving or refusal of the breathalyzer – and believe it or not – we’re as sick of reporting it as you are of hearing about it. But if experience has taught us anything it’s that for most, the shame and embarrassment of having one’s name appear in the court notes is often worse than the fine; which leads us to our next argument: it’s time to beef up the penalties.
Judges and lawyers often talk about how sentences must act as a deterrent. Well, if ever there was a crime that fit that claim, this is it.
It’s time for meaningful jail sentences that do not include weekends only, even for first-time offenders. Much stiffer fines also are required. The penalties need to be more than an inconvenience; the potential lawbreakers need to fear the consequences of their actions and that means the penalties need to cause some sort of hardship or loss of personal liberty. Without it, there will be no significant decrease in drunk driving cases.