Do Suspensions Work? He’s Been Driving Suspended Since 1995.

license-suspensions-for-drunk-driving-worthlessLicense suspension for drunk driving – that’ll teach them! But it only teaches them how easy it is to drive without one. Arrest reports in every state confirm that, as a measure against drunk driving, license suspension is about as feeble as it gets.

Recently a man was arrested in Leelanau County, Michigan under suspicion for OWI.  The man had 4 prior convictions, and has not had a valid driver’s license since 1995.

He’s 49 – 22 years is more than two-thirds of his adult life.

Michigan considers a third or fourth OWI a felony, so the man in question is up for some stiff penalties, including a fine of up to $5,000, up to 2 months’ community service,  vehicle immobilization or forfeit, and <sigh> license suspension.

But what is obvious here is that the previous measures didn’t “take” – to many OWI offenders, a license is just a piece of paper that has nothing to do with driving. Stronger measures are necessary.

Ignition Interlocks Work Better Than Suspension

One measure that actively stops  drunk driving is an ignition interlock – a device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.  Thirty states now mandate the device for first offenses, generally for a period of six months to a year. But this driver should have had a much longer term by his  fourth OWI conviction – ten years at least.

It’s natural to want to remove the driving privileges of drunk driving offenders, but this isn’t, say, Germany, where people observe suspensions strictly. The US is a nation on wheels, and people rely on cars for their jobs, school, just about everything. An ignition interlock ensures that the driver behind the wheel is sober. Other measures – fines, imprisonment, community service, OWI education, probation – are available as appropriate consequences.

But it’s time to acknowledge that license suspension for drunk driving doesn’t work. That’s why Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is stumping for ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders in all 50 states.

We have a technological fix for OWI that protects the public, and our first goal should be putting it to use.  Ignition interlocks work. Suspensions don’t.  There’s no reason to be using outdated measures when there’s a more effective one  available to us.