License Suspensions Don’t Do Diddly Squat in Austin Texas

TX-license-suspension-ignoredAustin has a problem with its roads: too many people driving on them are not licensed to do so.

This situation got some publicity recently when the city set a sad new record: 102 road deaths in 2015. And surprisingly, was that 32 of those fatal crashes involved drivers who had a suspended or invalid license.

KXAN TV in Austin investigated the problem, and found out not only that license suspensions were commonly ignored, but that quite a few of those ignoring them have been charged with the offense multiple times. This is troubling for a few reasons:

  • If there is no license, the driver is also without liability insurance, and so is a source of financial as well as physical danger
  • The license will have been suspended for a reason, which might be DUI or other serious violation. This implies that the offender hasn’t tried to come to terms with his or her problem.

One would think that someone with no license would drive more carefully in order to evade the attention of the police. But this is not the case. Suspended drivers are caught by the thousands, driving drunk, making reckless moves, and driving unsafe vehicles. KXAN found violators who had been caught driving while suspended seven times.

Ultimately the problem is the mindset of judges and lawmakers who consider license suspensions a serious punishment. A Maryland policemen who has been dubbed the DUI King said it best:

“You gotta remember, the key starts the car. Not a driver’s license.”

Drunk drivers in particular are notorious for ignoring their suspensions. One study showed that 88 percent of Wisconsin OWI offenders drove even though their license had been pulled.

For that reason, Austin and other municipalities with this problem need to re-evaluate the effectiveness of their punishments. If suspensions don’t work, then they need to find ones that do.

For drunk driving, the solution is an ignition interlock, a device which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has ingested alcohol. Vehicle impoundment or immobilization should be considered in other cases.

An unlicensed driver is one who could cause collisions, injury, death, and financial ruin. Austin needs to understand that license suspension is one of the weakest weapons in its public safety arsenal.