When Asked What Day it Was, DUI Driver Missed by a Month

repeat-drunk-drivers-dont-know-what-dayDriving a car involves some skill, some experience, some attention and also a bit of judgement. But it also requires some trust. You need to watch out for the other drivers on the road, but there’s a shared assumption that the person coming toward you can keep to his or her side of the road.  We trust that other drivers are more or less in control, so our main job is to maintain a safe speed, watch for hazards and keep a distance from other cars.

But what if the other driver doesn’t even know what day it is? Or month, for that matter?

That was the case with a driver arrested recently in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 44-year-old Anthony Sierra had some 13 previous DWI convictions on his record when he was found slumped at the wheel, stopped in the fast lane on I-25 during rush hour, a bottle of Listerine – yes, Listerine! – in his lap.

He was drunk enough that paramedics insisted on taking him to the hospital, rather than let him be brought right to the police station for booking.  When he finally woke up, he answered “February 18th?” when asked the date. It was March 20th.

When Repeat Drunk Drivers Won’t Stop

A certain segment of DWI offenders consider their arrest a wake-up call. They tend not to be alcoholics, but are generally social drinkers who underestimate the amount of alcohol in their system. They are dangerous – make no mistake about that – but the shock of an arrest leads to a change in behavior.

Some repeat drunk drivers are more persistent. There is a reason that states have penalties for second, third, fourth and even more DWI convictions Those penalties get used regularly. Some of these people eventually get the idea and decide that they’ve had enough imprisonment for one life.

But some repeat drunk drivers don’t – they keep on drinking and driving. They have serious alcohol addiction, and lose all sense of judgement when they drink –which is pretty much all the time.

Some of these “incorrigibles” end up behind bars for decades or even life because they eventually take another life on the road. But if they don’t, the stiffest penalties fail to deter them.  Related to their alcohol addiction are other factors: they have money problems, emotional and mental problems, a history of abuse, criminal backgrounds beyond DWI, and no support system (such as family or close friends).

So far police, courts, criminologists and psychologists have not come up with a solution to the problem of chronic drunk drivers like this one. One suspects that he will spend time in prison, and for the duration of his sentence, the public will be safe from him. But you can’t incarcerate all such drunk drivers forever.

An ignition interlock, which disables a car if the driver has been drinking, is a good start. It reduces recidivism, and should be a permanent requirement in cases like this. But no one solution will ever address such extreme behavior. Neither will the strategies the CDC has outlined to reduce drunk driving.

There will always be some drivers who don’t know what month it is. That’s why we can never fully trust everyone on the road. Fines, prison, treatment, and ignition interlocks continue to do a good job reducing the number of drunk drivers out there. It appears that only prison works for a certain small segment on the extreme end of the spectrum