Cabs should drive drunks home for free

By By Janice Kopaunik

By Janice Kopaunik

How do you spot a drunken driver? Look for someone on the road who is staring straight ahead, weaving between the lines and is possibly of college-student age.

The number of drunken drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 is on the rise — 2.1 million admit to driving under the influence. This group is directly responsible for nearly half of alcohol-related, fatal car crashes. The Utah State Legislature is taking action to keep the roads safe, but how effective are its policies?

The penalties for DUI conviction are getting more strict. Lawmakers are moving to increase fines and possibly require community service for driving under the influence, but will heavier punishments even help the problem? How often do offenders get in their cars, thinking, “I’m drunk, but I can afford the fine. Let’s do it!”?

Punitive laws will do little to stop would-be criminals when the punishment is already severe enough. Drunken driving ruins the lives of offenders and victims alike. The consequences for drunken driving are more severe than the ticket imposed, especially for the victim. Jail time and a revoked driving license can cost a job and livelihood for many. Still, people choose to get behind the wheel after they have been drinking. A stricter punishment will do little to stop them.

A more effective strategy for state lawmakers hoping to effect a positive change would be to focus efforts on preventative measures to curb drunken driving. Giving party-goers and club-hoppers other options before they get into their cars can make a world of difference. A call to a designated safe driver is not the only, or even most effective, option. If it were, drunken driving wouldn’t be a problem.

A safer solution would be to offer low-cost and free rides at the expense of convicted drunken drivers. Although an expensive option, this system would be extremely effective in keeping our roads and families safe. The people already demand this type of service. When companies such as law offices offered to pick up the cab tab as a promotional device during past holiday seasons, the cab dispatch phones rang off the hook. Wait times have reached five hours.

If the Legislature chooses to increase fines for driving under the influence, these funds should directly support measures that prevent driving drunk. State-funded programs aimed at free or discounted cab rides would effectively keep drunken drivers off the road, more so than any fine would. It could save a life.

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