Should Tougher Drinking & DUI Laws Be Enforced? Drunk driving is the act of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Because a person’s motor skills are impaired while drunk, driving under the influence is a major threat to public safety and is a criminal offense in most countries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that “40% of total traffic deaths in the United States are due to drunk driving” (GET INVOLVED). To determine whether or not someone is driving drunk, a person’s blood alcohol concentration is measured. “The current legal limit for drunk driving in Wisconsin is 0. 8 BAC”, which some people feel does not go far enough (Wisconsin DUI (OWI) Laws). People support tougher penalties for DUI convictions and favor a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving. Others feel that the current legal limit is adequate and stricter laws would penalize social drinkers instead of actual drunk drivers. A number of other suggestions have been made to combat drunk driving, including reducing the number of underage drinkers, imposing restrictive licensing laws to keep heavy drinkers off the roads, and increasing the use of sobriety checkpoints.
Even though stricter DUI laws will hurt economies on local restaurants, bars, and stores, tougher drinking and DUI laws should be enforced to prevent more deaths and to promote safer driving environments on the road. As easy as it would seem to enforce tougher DUI laws, there are some penalties to doing so. Stricter laws will penalize social drinkers and could have a negative economic effect on restaurants and bars. This is similar to the debate as to whether or not the passage of no-smoking laws had adverse consequences for businesses in the tavern industry.
In 2010, the state of Wisconsin implemented a law that banned smoking in all public places. Immediately, bars across the state noticed a drop in revenue. The problem with this change is that it is like looking at a community with 30 bars and restaurants. After observing that total revenues have been $150 million for each bar for the past five years, including that no changes occurred over that time. “Lost in that aggregation is the possibility that few owners gained $2 million in revenues, most lost $2 million, and still others experienced no change. (Wisconsin Bans Smoking). Stronger DUI laws would discourage social drinkers to go out to bars as did the ban on smoking for frequent smokers. The main point is that more DUI laws that we enforce, the more we hurt economies of bars and restaurants. In 1984 Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act. Now every state in the country has 21 as the minimum age to drink alcohol. The reason congress passed that law was to save lives, and it has worked. Maintaining the 21 year old drinking age and enforcing underage drinking laws can reduce drunk driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 21 law has saved 23,733 lives since states began raising drinking age in 1975. Research shows that back when some states still had a minimum drinking age of 18, youths in those states who were under 21 drank more and continued to drink more as adults in their early 20s. In states where the drinking age was 21, teenagers drank less and continued to drink less through their early 20s. Underage drinking is undoubtedly a major public health problem in the United States. The 21 law is predicated on the fact that drinking is more dangerous for youth because they’re still developing mentally and physically, and they lack experience and are more likely to take risks. ” (Wilson). Also, intoxication and drunken driving fatalities are higher in most countries because their drinking age is 18. “Britain, Denmark, and Ireland have rates more than twice the US level. ” (Wilson). Statistically, the drinking age at 21 is proper and doesn’t necessarily need to be raised, but needs to be enforced more to prevent drunk driving on the roads.
However, enforcing underage drinking laws can lower economy on alcohol distribution at stores. Some people consider it hypocritical to say our children shouldn’t be drinking since as adults they did it when they were young. Today many children typically have at least $20 where they meet at the store with a computerized fake ID and purchase any kind of alcohol they can get. “The grocery industry has no hard numbers, but estimates that one out of five alcohol transactions are done at checkout scanners in grocery stores and gas stations, where they’re available and purchased by underage drinkers nationwide. (Finney). According to research, enforcing underage drinking laws can reduce revenue by a significant amount. Sobriety checkpoints are an effective law enforcement tool involving the stopping of vehicles or a specific sequence of vehicles, at a predetermined fixed location to detect drivers impaired by alcohol. “When drivers perceive the risk of being caught is high, their behavior changes immediately and can be easily detected at sobriety checkpoints. ” (HbomkampDrunkDriving). The message is simple, direct, relevant, and it already works having thousands of citizens influenced not to drink and drive nationwide.
In 1995, NHTSA conducted a study in six California communities, to evaluate the effectiveness of their checkpoint programs. The principal findings of the report included that the low staffing level approach is effective in generating public awareness and it is more cost-effective than a high staffing level configuration. Checkpoints are also legal! “The U. S. Supreme Court in 1990 (Michigan v. Sitz) upheld the constitutionality of sobriety checkpoints. ” (HbomkampDrunkDriving). Sobriety checkpoints are an effective, legal, and cheap way of lowering drunken driving rates.
Critics say that sobriety checkpoints violate the Constitution’s protections against being searched without reason, but the Supreme Court has upheld their use as mentioned earlier. The main problem with such a policy is that it doesn’t target the high BAC drivers who cause the vast majority of alcohol-related traffic fatalities. The deeply frustrating thing about these checkpoints is that there is a more effective, less intrusive alternative. “A landmark NHTSA study found that roving police patrols net nearly three times as many drunk drivers as road blocks. (Wilson). Checkpoints simply pick up whoever wanders through, even if their blood alcohol concentration is well below the legal limit of . 08 percent or no alcohol consumption at all. Therefore, checkpoints hurt innocent drivers and are checking the wrong people. There are alternatives to catching drunk drivers other than invasive sobriety checkpoints. Severe penalties will deter people from drinking and driving and promote a safer driving environment to prevent more deaths on the road. In 2011, 9,878 people were killed and approximately 350,000 were injured in the U. S. ” (GET INVOLVED). Each crash, each death, each injury impacts not only the person in the crash, but family, friends, classmates, coworkers and more. Alcoholics will continue to take risks until they get caught or kill someone. “A first OWI may result in fines ranging from $150 to $300 plus $355 surcharge with a suspension or revocation of the person’s driver’s license ranging between 6 months and 9 months. ” (Wisconsin DUI (OWI) Laws).
A fine for a first offense should be more severe and changed to a higher price, so people can learn the consequences early. “About one-third of all drivers arrested or convicted of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol are repeat offenders. ” (GET INVOLVED). Repeat offenders would die out if the first offense was at a high price to pay. The revocation of the person’s driver’s license should be automatic with the higher ticket price. The change of severity to a first offense will deter people from drinking and driving easily.
Even though stricter DUI laws will hurt economies on local restaurants, bars, and stores, tougher drinking and DUI laws should be enforced to prevent more deaths and to promote safer driving environments on the road. There are many cost effective ways of doing so. There have been many deaths on the road in the past year, and everyone should have the right to feel safe driving on the roads in Wisconsin. If tougher DUI laws were enforced people would have that safe feeling back and wouldn’t have to lose their loved ones to drunk driving. Drinking and driving: there are stupider things, but it’s a very short list. ” ~Author Unknown. (Quotes about Drinking and Driving). Works Cited Finney, Michael. “Concern over Underage Alcohol Sales at Checkout. ” ABC NEWS. N. p. , 29 Apr. 2011. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. “GET INVOLVED. ” MADD -State Statistics. N. p. , n. d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. “HbomkampDrunkDriving – Opposing Drunk Driving. ” HbomkampDrunkDriving – Opposing Drunk Driving. N. p. , n. d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. ProQuest Staff. “At Issue: Drunk Driving. ProQuest LLC. 2013: n. pag. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 27 Mar 2013. “Quotes about Drinking and Driving, Impaired Driving, Texting and Driving, Etc. ” Quotes about Drinking and Driving, Impaired Driving, Texting and Driving, Etc. N. p. , n. d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. Wilson, Mike. Drunk Driving. N. p. : n. p. , n. d. Print. Introducing Issues With Opposing Viewpoints “Wisconsin DUI (OWI) Laws. ” Findlaw. N. p. , n. d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. “Wisconsin Bans Smoking. ” – No-smoke. org. N. p. , n. d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013