Thursday, November 27, 2008

Illinois DUI gets a hatchet-job from the press again . . .

The AP reports that some 45,000 drivers have at some point been found guilty of a DUI violation in Illinois.  They make quite a lot of this, and then comes this: that is out of 8.5 million drivers.  One half of a percent.  

One obviously very emotional person quoted said "If you choose to drink and drive, you shouldn't get latitude . . . do you get latitude if you pick up a gun and shoot someone in the head? No, you don't."  Let's separate the truth from the sensationalism.  
  1. It is not illegal to "drink and drive" period.  It is illegal to drink to the point of impairment and drive. 
  2. Latitude? The latitude she's talking about is that some Illinois motorists with a first DUI do not lose their licenses beyond a temporary suspension of three months up to three years. Others lose their licenses for 1, 5 or 10 years based on their history, and then get the opprotunity to prove to the Secretary of State of Illniois that they deserve another chance. Maybe they get that chance, maybe not.
  3. Many of those 45,000 had one Illinois DUI, a single misjudgement, maybe many years past.  
  4. One important reason DUI is problematic is that alcohol in sufficient amounts impairs one's judgement.  Most people driving while under the influence have no intention of doing so - they are merely exhibiting poor judgement.  
  5. Most collisions involving DUI occur at levels of 0.16 or above, double the legal limit.  Many of those which involve motorists are not necessarily caused by the impaired motorist. In 2006 in Illinois, there were 1,254 traffic-related deaths total.  Of those 594 were "alcohol related".  Not caused by an impaired motorist, just "alcohol related," which might include any motorist, at fault or not, who had any detectable amount of alcohol in their system.  
  6. The Secretary of State estimates the average cost of a DUI conviction at $15,000.00. Sound like latitude?
  7. Want less DUI in Illinois? One way is to undo the arbitrary and baseless change from a 0.10 per se DUI law to 0.08.  0.08 simply widens the net by loosening the definition of what a crime.  This change was based on absolutely no scientific data.  One effect is that officers are spread ever more thinly.  While busy arresting people who may not exhibit any significant impairment or be any danger to others on the road for fear their jobs are at risk, Illinois law enforcement officers have less time to spend watching for more serious violators.
The fact is, this kind of sensasionalism does nothing for public safety.  Sane, rational study would be welcome, but phony hack-job publicity is easier.

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