Sure License Suspensions Work – This Drunk Driver Has 31 of Them!

license suspension didn't work for Douglas Bowman
(Lake Orion Police Department)

“Drunk driver? Take away his license! That’ll show him!”

We suspect Douglas Bowman has heard these words before. Recently Mr. Bowman was charged with his 8th drunk diving offense in Lake Orion, Michigan. He was spotted driving erratically, and stuck a curb on the way out of a fast-food restaurant.

More interesting even than the 8 OWIs is the 31 license suspensions on the offender’s record. That’s right – Bowman’s driving privileges were revoked no less than 31 times.

A pause to recall the definition of insanity: doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome.

We know from research that license suspension generally doesn’t work. Some 50 to 75 percent of offenders continue to drive after their privileges are revoked – and they’re doing it uninsured and – if the suspension was for DUI – under the influence.

It’s understandable that the public isn’t always aware that license suspensions are such a feeble form or deterrence, especially for repeat drunk drivers. But courts ought to have an inkling by now.  In this case, after the first, say, five or ten suspensions it should have been obvious that something else should have been tried.

Suspension Doesn’t Work – Ignition Interlocks Do

What works? For many repeat drunk drivers, ignition interlocks. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Given that people drive while suspended, one option is to make the installation of an ignition interlock a term of the suspension. Currently Michigan mandates ignition interlocks for “Super Extreme OWI” offenders – ones whose blood alcohol concentration is .17 or greater. The legal limit for intoxication is .08 BAC.

Many states now mandate an ignition interlock for any drunk driving offense, including first offenses, with a BAC of .08 or more. The idea is to protect the public while allowing the offender to function and get his or her life in order.

Perhaps getting one’s life in order is not a question here – with 31 suspensions, this is clearly a case of a serious repeat offender, one who must be taken off the road by means other than taking away a piece of paper.

There will always be some serious repeat OWI offenders who will need to be jailed or otherwise monitored. But the majority of offenders can turn things around after an OWI. For those people, an ignition interlock allows them to obtain counseling and keep a job while keeping the public safe from an impaired driver.

But seriously – let’s not pretend that license suspension on its own will work. We submit 31 examples of why it won’t.