New Hampshire is currently debating whether or not to allow first-time convicted drunk drivers to drive on a restricted license with a ‘blow-and- go’ device in their car. Current law suspends their license for nine months but it can be reduced to 90 days after a treatment (assuming outpatient) program is completed. A suspended license means driving privileges are revoked while a restricted license allows driving at certain pre-determined times for work and treatment.
I’ve been through two outpatient treatment stints, the first I drank through (after the class let out, not during or before because that would have been stupid). The second, I was entirely sober throughout (I did the second after inpatient to satisfy the court – long story). To the best of my knowledge, I was the only sober person in that class. Without providing tech secrets to would-be cheaters, cheating that system is easy, if you’re smart about it.
Now, some are for the change and others are opposed.
As is usual, the debate is framed improperly in the news because reality won’t fit in a two sentence answer. Those opposed say they are because it sends would-be drunk drivers the message that consequences will be loosened or made less severe.
After my post yesterday that dealt specifically with consequences, you might think that I would then be opposed to letting convicted drunk drivers drive on a restricted license – that the nine month suspension should stay. You would be wrong and not because I’m for a lighter sentence. I’m for tougher sentences that work.
Assuming that once the nine month suspension is over a driver can get his or her license back free and clear, this means a person is done. What happens in reality is that a real drunk, one normal drivers have to worry about, will drive to and from work on the suspended license. Far fewer tickets are given during rush hour and if you obey the speed limit in Michigan and wear your seatbelt, your chances of being pulled over drop to zero or close to it. Eventually the cheater will decide that he (or she) has to get out for a night so they’ll go to a bar for a night out and leave early, hitting the party store on the way home… Or worse, switch times at the bar to weekend mornings because police presence is much more concentrated on a Saturday night than a Saturday afternoon. You end up with a drunk behind the wheel on a heavy-traffic time when families are out having fun. The main point is this: You end up with a drunk on the road because a suspended license doesn’t mean a person can’t drive – it means a person can get in a bit more trouble if they are caught driving.
On the other hand, with a “blow-and-go” (a breathalyzer device that will keep a vehicle from starting if the operator has been drinking – and presumably keep a record of the attempt) in the vehicle, the people are assured that a driver will not be loaded behind the wheel. There are ways around a blow-and-go, of course, and without giving secrets away to miscreants, know that those methods are highly unreliable. In addition, with a blow-and-go, I assume that a time-stamp is recorded – when the data is downloaded from the unit, you have a record of whether or not a driver stuck to his or her restriction… The point is, though, under current law, you rely on a drunk to stick to his or her sentence. With a blow-and-go in the car, your are ensured that the drunk will have no choice but stick to their sentence.
In other words, the blow-and-go, with a restricted rather than a suspended license, is the harsher sentence. On top of that, you allow the offender to continue making a living so they can still support their family while serving out their sentence.
This is from the perspective of an ex-drunk who had an operating under the influence conviction or two in his distant past (more than 22 years ago, before they even had blow-and-go’s). I know what the hell I’m talking about here. Thinking as I once did, as a criminal, I’d much rather the suspended license – I’d still be free to do as I wish, as long as I’m careful about it. With a blow-and-go, you’ve got me.
Just food for thought – and a chance to look at things from a different perspective.