Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty

Drunk Driving: Who’s held responsible? by grassroothawaii
May 13, 2010, 9:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

By Frances Nuar

Personal responsibility. It’s an interesting concept, is it not? It comes down to the empirical question: am I, or am I not responsible for my actions? Now, before you disregard this question as pertinent only to personal morality choices, let me remind you that the government does indeed dictate levels of personal responsibility, making this not only an issue of morality, but also of politics.

Case in point: state liquor laws and their enforcement. The Honolulu Advertiser commended Hawaii Police Department officer Chad Giesseman today for making a record-breaking 166 DUI arrests in 2009. ( Helping to keep our streets safe from intoxicated drivers is a vital part of public safety. Drunken drivers should not be allowed on the roads, don’t they know better? Everyone knows the statistics of driving while impaired.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports: “In 2008, an estimated 11,773 people died in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal BAC (.08 or greater). These deaths constitute 31.6 percent of the 37,261 total traffic fatalities in 2008.” Of these deaths, 42 occurred in Hawaii. 5,812 DUI arrests were made in Hawaii in 2008. It’s stupid to drive drunk.

What does this all come out to? The question remains, who is responsible for drinking and driving drunk? Liquor laws would lead one to believe that the person/establishment who serves liquor to someone who then does something stupid like get in an accident or kill himself (like this person is to be held responsible. Wait a minute. So the person who freely chooses to drink over his limit is not to be held responsible for his subsequent actions? Everyone knows what happens when you drink too much. You get tipsy. You get giddy. You have fun. You suddenly think everyone at the bar is attractive. Does this also mean you rescind any and all form of personal responsibility? Does this also mean that whatever bar you choose to drink at should give you a breathalyzer before each drink? Make you sign a waiver you will not drink and drive? Why is it that an establishment is held responsible for the personal choices of individuals?


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And it was the choice of the majority of the legislators who voted for this law that fuzzes up the responsibility and accoutability. But they will never be held accountable for that. They have quite a job, those boys and girls. Their vote, flippant or serious, always has unintended consequences. In this case it moves the onus from where it should be, the drinker, to the bartender and/or his boss. Maybe many who voted for this were bar-hoppers intent on looking for just- in- case excuses. Alas, we are stuck with a flawed,failed law. These guys never voluntarily go back and look much less think. That is why I like sunsets written right into all the laws, as in five years and the law is toast unless repassed.

Comment by Dick Rowland

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