DUI “Scarlet Letter” License Plates Another Bust

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on June 19th, 2009

I’ve railed long and hard in the past about the growing trend of humiliating citizens convicted of drunk driving by forcing them to have special license plates on their cars (no matter who is driving).  See, for example, The Scarlet Letters, The Return of the Scarlet Letter, and Washington State Says "No" to DUI Scarlet Letter .  The idea came from the old Salem witch trials, when women accused of adultery were branded or had to wear a scarlet "A", as memorialized in Nathaniel Hawtheorne’s classic novel The Scarlet Letter.     

Another of the hair-brained weapons in MADD’s "War on Drunk Driving", this one has proven a failure as well…


DUI Plates Are Another Flop

Akron, OH.  June 19 – When it comes to combating drunk driving, Ohio leads the league in crackpot ideas.

One of our most recent legislative brainstorms — special license plates for convicted drivers — has been a total bust.

Since the law was changed in 2004, Ohio has issued 46,627 ‘’restricted plates.'’ In Summit County alone, 2,949 individuals and/or families have been sentenced to drive around with the distinctive yellow-and-red plates, the modern equivalent of The Scarlet Letter.

If these plates were working — if the drinking populace is cowering at the notion of having to adorn its vehicles with these things — we would have experienced a significant drop in alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

Nope.

If you compare the last year without special plates, 2003, to the most recent year for which statistics are available, 2007, you find that, while Ohio’s overall crash rate has plummeted, the number of alcohol-related fatalities has increased.

• Total crashes of all types: down 16 percent.

• Fatal alcohol-related crashes: up 2 percent.

• Alcohol-related fatalities per 1,000 total crashes: up 21 percent.

Lord knows how many plates would have been manufactured if the legislature hadn’t changed its mind about mandating them for every offender. Only nine months after the new law was implemented, it was adjusted to eliminate first-timers with a blood-alcohol level below 0.17 percent…

Restricted plates — originally called ‘’family plates,'’ apparently because they bring ridicule to the entire family — actually have been available since 1967, but their use was left to the discretion of judges. Clearly, most judges didn’t believe singling out DUI offenders for public humiliation was appropriate.

No kidding. If we single out drunk drivers, why no special plates for murderers, rapists, extortionists, armed robbers and child molesters?

Heck, if legislators really believe public scorn is an appropriate element in our criminal justice system, we should bring back pillories.

At least those might have an impact.


I still like the branding idea best…
 

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