Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Email to an Eighth grader in North Carolina...

Yesterday, an obviously intelligent eighth grader asked me to answer some questions in furtherance of a social studies class assigment. Here's my response:

Hi Jackson:

I'll see what I can do in the few minutes I have...

1) How do you feel about the consequences about drunk driving? Do you think the consequences should be harsher, or less harsh?

I think that punishments are probably too harsh. At some point, as we approach making all DUI's into attempted homicides, at ever lower levels of blood alcohol, we should slow down and analyze what of the myriad changes to the way we penalize DUI and otherwise educate (even propagandize) the citizenry are actually making the roads safer and fit within present standards of proportional justice. For example, were we to make all DUI defendants eligible for the death penalty, regardless of whether anyone got hurt, and what the blood alcohol level was, you'd see a lot more people using taxis and quitting drinking altogether. And then there would be those hard-core alcoholics, and people who pay no attention to the criminal justice system until the cuffs are being put on them, who wouldn't change their ways. But the bottom line is, how much, in the name of deterrence, are we really willing to tolerate as a society. I think we may be at the breaking point. We're already beyond mine.

For more of my opinions on this topic [which might even surprise you] go to:


2) How do you believe law enforcement should handle the issue of drunk driving? What I mean is what do you think law enforcement should do to prevent the issue of drunk driving?

I'd like to see them exercise more compassion in their approach, and to show a little more courage. In other words, they should be willing to give someone a ride home, or just take their keys away for the night. By being tough as nails, they do the institution of law enforcement a great disservice. In other words, when they show no compassion, people develop a hostile attitude toward police, which is unfortunate for everyone concerned.

3) Why do you think that people decide to drive drunk?

They really don't decide. They impulsively drive home after a party or a night of drinking with little awareness of their impairment. Alcohol impairs judgment and memory. One of the things a drunk person is not qualified to do is to decide whether they are safe to drive. The real mistake is to begin drinking without having already arranged a safe ride home. Otherwise, they are leaving their fate in the hands of a drunk person who will have great difficulty making a decision; much less a correct one.

4) Which group of people do you think drives drunk more often: teens/adolescence, or adults?


5) When I was doing some research, I found out that alcohol-related incidents don't just mean that the driver is drunk, it means that if there is an accident which involves a drunk driver, passenger, or pedestrian, it is an alcohol-related incident. Based on that, who do you think should get punished more; a drunk driver, or a drunk pedestrian?

drunk driver. there is far more potential for a fatality, and serious injury, when you involve one plus tons of metal traveling at a speed in excesss of 3 miles per hour.

6) What percent of drunk driving car accidents have been fatal?

I don't know. NHTSA publishes statistics on this sort of thing. I'm a lawyer, not a statistician.

Good luck, Jackson.


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