Courthouse Sting Reveals Sad Truth: License Suspensions Don’t Work

Do drivers charged with DUI take their license suspension seriously? On a Monday not long ago, police in Indio, California decided to find out.

suspended California licenseThey followed a dozen people out of the courthouse. All had been ordered by the judge not to drive.

The police found that eight of the twelve arranged to get back home legally. But the other four offenders got into their cars and drove away, just minutes after their licenses had been withdrawn. Two arrests were made.

The Sheriff’s report states that stakeout operations like this act as a deterrent with the goal of “keeping impaired and unlicensed drivers from the road” and heightening awareness of impaired driving.

No one should be surprised by the results of this operation. If anything, the number of drivers defying the suspension was on the low side. Studies show that over half — by some estimates, 75% — of DUI offenders continue to drive even with their license suspended.

The operation highlights the disdain with which many people treat license suspensions.

What to do about it?

If license suspensions don’t keep people from driving, then they certainly won’t keep people from drinking and driving. The answer is to order the installation of ignition interlocks in the vehicles of all drunk driving offenders. Ignition interlocks are devices that prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Many states already mandate interlocks for first DUI offenses, and they have reductions in road deaths to show for it. Many more states are contemplating all-offender ignition interlock laws; there is even a federal law in the offing.

Is there a workable alternative to ignition interlocks? As we have seen, suspensions don’t work. Rehabilitation and counseling programs can be helpful, but they don’t ensure public safety. Only an interlock, properly installed and monitored, does that.