I am writing in response to “Broken System” (Clarion, Aug. 21), an article referencing the increased activity on behalf of our law enforcement staff in attempting to remove drunk drivers from our roads. Specifically, I would like to comment on the views of our public defender, William Taylor.
Mr. Taylor condemns our society with taking “more interest in punishing people after the fact, rather than implementing infrastructure to keep the problem from manifesting itself to begin with.” I question this rationale. Who amongst us feels that we are out to ‘get’ drunk drivers for the sake of doing it or simply to punish them? As a society, we take an interest in this, Mr. Taylor, in the same way we, as a society, take an interest in punishing child abusers, sexual offenders and murderers. We do it to protect the innocent from harm, and, in this circumstance, we do it simply to remove them from the road. Drunk drivers kill and injure innocent people with their actions, and it is not, nor should it be, a minor offense. It should not be easy to get back behind the wheel.
The downstream effects of what it takes the convicted DUI offender to get their lives back into order, yes, are significant, however, they are insignificant with respect to the damage they inflict on those they affect through their actions. In truth, this is no more complicated than a childhood lesson, taking responsibility for your actions. If a child is told not to play baseball in the yard, but does so anyway, and accidentally breaks a window, the child should pay for the window. The child learns the consequences of their actions, and has to accept the result. In this case, however, the breaking of the window is accidental, and in the large majority of DUI cases, I would argue, are not accidental. This is a voluntary choice; a bad one, but nonetheless a choice and a path they must choose to take. There are consequences for our choices.
Drunk drivers, in addition to the expenses they incur themselves by choosing to break the law, increase our automobile insurance premiums (through disproportionate claims related to accidents, etc). Their behavior causes increases in our taxes (to fund programs such as overtime for our dedicated Police Department and Troopers to be on the road removing such offenders or in Mr. Taylor’s suggestion, funding a public transportation system to carry intoxicated persons to and from their preferred watering hole). In the worst time possible, drunk driving ultimately increases our health care costs (running up huge medical bills related to injuries sustained driving intoxicated).
In addition, drunk drivers inflict immeasurable damage on innocent individuals who frequently are injured in a life threatening manner, injured in a life changing manner (such as paraplegia, resulting in permanent nursing home placement), or lose their lives through the actions of the intoxicated. This, however, pales in comparison to the often unseen emotional and spiritual harm that this type of behavior inflicts on affected families.
If Mr. Taylor wishes to see a real downward spiral, I suggest he look into the eyes of a family that lost their loved one through the actions of a drunk driver, and witness them work their way through shock, denial, pain, anger, grief and depression. I suggest he see how they attempt to carry on with their lives, pay their rent, keep their car, obtain their medicine, mend their broken hearts, or a myriad of other, often not witnessed effects that drunk driving carries into the lives of those affected. He should cry with a family as they learn they lost their child to a drunk driver. He should see them in the Emergency Room, late at night, months and even years afterwards, in a hopeless state as they struggle with addiction, struggle to cope, and attempt to carry on with a huge, gaping hole in their lives. I promise his sympathy towards those who break the law would wane, as I hope his efforts in providing them avenues to enable their behavior would.