A California Citizen’s Arrest and What It Says About Drunk Driving Today

A small news item that reveals a larger trend: a few nights ago a driver crashed his vehicle into two parked cars just after midnight. He tried to flee the scene afterwards, but a group of residents confronted him and held him until police could arrive.

Witnesses held a drunk driving suspect until police could arrest himAccord to police reports, the man was very drunk.

The circumstances are neither unique nor particularly dramatic: drunk driver tries to get away after a crash and fails. But the incident does show a change that has occurred in the minds of the public.

Even though the man injured no one, the witnesses were determined that he be arrested for his crime. It obviously wasn’t the property damage to the cars that made them act. Had they just been concerned about fenders and headlights, they could have taken down the driver’s license number or compelled him to write down his details for the owners of the cars.

No, it was the fact that he was driving drunk that made an arrest necessary. They wanted the man off the road. For years now organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and the Ad Council have been spreading the word about the lethal nature of drunk driving. What was once seen as a reckless and unfortunate habit is now recognize as a crime.

It’s hard now to imagine a time when drunk drivers were driving home by cops and told to sleep it off; when there were few laws against impaired driving; and when people who were killed by drunk drivers were just considered “unlucky,” as if they’d been, say, struck by lightning.

Times have changed, and the good people of National City saw the scene that night for what it was: a man engaged in a crime who was about to get away and endanger lives. He needed to be stopped, and they knew it.

In an earlier age, onlookers would have shaken their heads, and perhaps the most public-spirited of them would have taken down a license number as the man sped off to his next collision. Last week the driver was taken out of action. That’ s progress.