DID THIS LAW HICCUP? To drink or not to drink, is that the question? Starting this week, it may well be--at least if you’re planning to drive in the process. Tennessee is toughening its stance on repeat DUI offenders statewide. Provisions include a stronger emphasis on treatment programs for drivers convicted two or more times in a five-year period. In addition, a lower limit will be placed on the legal blood-alcohol level as of July 2003. Though I’m sometimes hesitant when it comes to the implementation of legal measures that run the risk of over-parenting, for lack of a better term, my experience here leads me to believe that this may be more or less necessary. If you’ve braved the roads on a weekend night, or hell, even on a weekday night, you probably know what I mean. Cars scattering in every direction like they’re in a city street snow-globe that’s been freshly shaken. Utter lack of attention to any sign, traffic light, or moving (or stationary) object. Where, oh where, has our survival instinct gone? Ultimately, I would like to be able to refute the new law. I mean, we’re grown-ups, right? We can handle it. But maybe we can’t. Perhaps I’m naive and never looked for it before, but I have never in my life encountered a population so blasé about drinking and driving. And when I say that I am referring specifically to drinking AND driving. At what point in the partying process does this become acceptable? This may be why the new laws are geared primarily toward repeat offenders. However, this is also the point at which I question a certain aspect of this imminent crackdown. Apparently a test program is in the works in Shelby County for a new gadget designed to slap the wrists of said offenders before they can even rev their engines, sober or otherwise. Essentially an onboard breathalyzer, this gadget may be installed in the dash of convicted driver’s vehicles, rendering their cars inoperable if a blood-alcohol level greater than .024 is registered. Here’s the interesting part, though. In addition to the initial reading, these drivers will be subject to additional readings throughout the course of their time operating their vehicles. Sounds like a bit of a distraction to me. Maybe the intended point is to prevent those with the desire to enjoy Miller time onboard from getting drunk between point A and point B, but I’m not sure this would work. What would prevent the driver from having a passenger take the test instead? Or from ignoring the possible consequences and guzzling down the juice of their choice? The question that needs to be asked is whether this is perhaps somewhat symbolic. The justification offered is that this punishment is aimed towards curtailing the “alcoholic” drivers. Not the drunk drivers, mind you. The alcoholics. You know, lots of people drink and drive in the world, alcoholics or otherwise. Using the term in this way, however, may create a mindset in the driving population that could defeat the entire purpose of the stricter laws. How many alcoholics that you know run around referring to themselves as such? Not many, I would guess. But, if the presentation of this measure includes the use of a term such as alcoholic lightly, it will most likely function to create a false sense of security in the minds of those who don’t categorize themselves as such. As in, well I wouldn’t drive home tonight, but I’m not an alcoholic so… Fine. Perhaps I’m being over-analytical about the whole thing. Obviously a society that desires to keep its populace, well, alive needs to address issues such as these. It’s important, though, to frame and discuss it in the right manner. Otherwise it’ll quickly become another measure that’s ignored until one is on the side of the road in the dancing blue lights. And that would be the best case scenario.


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