Driving on a Suspension Was a Bad Idea. So Was the Suspension.

California suspended licenseUnless you follow such things, you might have missed a news release from San Bernadino County. The County Sheriff decided to check to make sure that offenders on a DUI license suspension weren’t driving to their Rancho Cucamonga Station probation appointment.

After probation check-in, police officers followed the offenders to their vehicles to ensure they weren’t flouting the law. Those that were got hit with a driving under suspension charge and had their vehicles impounded for 30 days.

Fair enough. It’s against the law to drive under a DUI license is suspension. And it’s a particularly bad idea to drive to a police station when you’re suspended. Moreover, the police are rightfully concerned about the number of fatal collisions that occur involving suspended drivers and people on probation for DUI. So the compliance check was a valid move.

But the whole exercise raises a question: why were those people driving? Some probably had no regard for the law. But others would have had no one to take them to the appointment, and could not afford the time away from the job to use public transportation. Some would have lost their job if they’d given up driving, as the law required. Others might have had to give up school, or have no way to pick up their kids from school. For many people everything stops when driving stops.

Suspensions Don’t Work. Interlocks Do.

There is a better solution than DUI license supension: ignition interlocks. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. A majority of U.S. states now require ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenses. The devices:

  • Prevent a person from driving if he or she is above a pre-set limit, usually a BAC of .02
  • Allow offenders to get their lives back together: keep a job, support and care for a family, and obtain counseling and treatment if necessary

It’s a sad irony that ignition interlocks would have accomplished exactly what the San Bernadino Sheriff’s Department was trying to accomplish: take drunk drivers off the road and make the county’s roads safer.