Sunday, December 6, 2009

Another Modest Proposal: Drunken Drivers

This is another great idea that I had: how to handle drunken drivers. Coming on the heels of my proposal regarding prison overcrowding, you may at first think that I'm proposing capital punishment for drunks.

I have considered it, from time to time. In a posting to an online community a few years ago, I asserted that more people are killed every year by drunk drivers than by terrorists. I had the numbers to support that assertion, too. Even though I have many friends who drive when they've had too much to drink, I think that drunken drivers should be apprehended immediately and handled severely. I've known of too many lives that were ruined by drunken drivers to feel sympathy for anybody who drives while drunk -- even my friends.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, here's my proposal:

1) First, give every police officer the authority -- no, the mandate -- to pass immediate judgement on a person suspected of drunk driving. The laws on the books today allow an officer to cite someone based on their failure to pass a sobriety test, their failure to pass a breathalyzer test, or their refusal to take a breathalyzer test. Let's keep those three criteria -- they'll do just fine for what I have in mind.

2) Second, when a police officer determines that a driver is drunk, using the three criteria currently on the books, the police officer is to get on the radio and call in The Crusher (dun dun dunnnnn...).

The Crusher is just what its name implies: a giant hydraulic ram, mounted on the back of a flatbed semi trailer, big enough to hold a Dodge Ram 4WD or a Ford F99950 with oversized tires, a lift kit, and a roll bar with an array of fog lamps, plus a crew cab and an extended bed. The Crusher is also strong enough to convert said oversized excuse for male anatomical deficiency into an 8-inch-thick steel pancake. The Crusher is accompanied by another truck, a flatbed semi with a crane at one end, the kind you see hauling bricks or roofing supplies or sod.

The number of Crushers required for a given state will depend in large part on the estimated number of drunks on the road on a representative Friday night. It'll vary from state to state, and from legislature to legislature.

3) When the police call it in, The Crusher arrives with its traveling companion. The drunk is given five minutes to remove incidental personal items from the vehicle (but nothing semi-permanently attached, like radio or wheels). Then, while the drunk watches from a safe distance, in the custody of the arresting officer, the crane picks up the vehicle and deposits it in The Crusher. In five minutes or less, The Crusher has reduced the vehicle to scrap metal. The crane then picks up the crushed car and deposits it on the second flatbed, where the operator secures it in place and eventually hauls it away to a smelter.

4) The operator of The Crusher gives the drunk two pieces of paper: one is a receipt for the scrap metal, complete with the former vehicle's VIN and license number; the other is a bill for the cost of crushing the car and transporting it to the smelter. If, after the numbers are crunched, the state owes the drunk money, he has 30 days to show up at the courthouse to collect. On the other hand, if the drunk owes the state money, he has 30 days to show up at the courthouse to pay up.

Either way, it soon becomes too expensive for the drunk to continue driving drunk. If that was his own car, then he has to go buy another one. His insurance won't cover it -- and if his insurance does cover it, then you can bet his premiums will go way, way up, and quickly. If that was a car he'd borrowed from a friend, his friend will take it out of his hide, because the same state law that authorizes The Crusher will indemnify the state from claims in cases where the drunk was driving someone else's car. If the car was stolen, then fine: the owner's insurance will handle the case much as it does today.

But if the car was stolen from, um, let's say, someone who belongs to a fraternal organization whose members take acts like this very personally and act swiftly and unitedly to serve up their own brand of justice upon the offender, well, let's hope that drunk can run really fast.

Either way (as I said), it soon becomes too expensive for the drunk to continue driving drunk. And that solves one of the biggest problems with today's drunk-driving laws: they're ineffective as a deterrent to driving drunk. The statistics vary, but even the most conservative statistic says that 1 out of 10 drivers on the road on a Friday or Saturday night is legally intoxicated. Maybe the prospect of punishment that is a swift (say "immediate"), certain, and tangible blow to the pocketbook will do a better job as a deterrent.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I say skip the crane and carry vehicle. Have it so the drunk driver's vehicle can be driven directly on to the crusher. I also say that you need to have the person who loaned the car to a convicted DD or person under suspension to be present.

And why would you give them any compensation for the vehicle? I say just charge them for the cost of the crusher. Can't pay it? Community service and jail time.

I like the plan, but if the car is stolen, rarely does insurance cover what the car is actually worth to the owner. I know if my vehicle was stolen, I'd be screwed.

I'd just settle for people being RESPONSIBLE. Yeah, I had a dream once...