Excessive drunken-driving deaths lead to modest proposals

    Despite the many state and local laws against drunk driving, last year over 11,000 people were killed on US roads by intoxicated drivers. But at last someone is ready to do something concrete instead of just talking about it.

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    Despite the many state and local laws against drunk driving, last year over 11,000 people were killed on US roads by intoxicated drivers. But at last someone is ready to do something concrete instead of just talking about it.

    Yesterday, President Obama, accompanied on stage by fellow Democrats and several children whom he said had written to him to put a stop to DUI, proposed to impose the following new laws by executive action. It will be illegal to manufacture, import, sell or possess automobiles with:

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    Engines more powerful than 90 hp, or more than four cylinders.
    Superchargers or turbochargers.
    Gas tanks holding more than four gallons.
    Any two of: spoilers; aggressive names like Mustang and Charger; high-power CD players with semi-automatic, multiple disk mechanisms; outlandish color schemes or body shapes; non-standard exhaust mufflers; tinted windows.
    Automatic transmissions.
    All convertibles.
    Cup holders capable of accepting bottles or beer cans.

    Owners of vehicles with the banned features will have six months to have them removed or, if this is not possible, one year to dispose of the vehicles at a government-approved dismantling and shredding center. A national database will be created, and owners required to prove to a government official that the banned features have been permanently removed, or produce evidence of their vehicles having been scrapped.

    The previous 55 miles-per-hour speed limit will be restored, and reduced to 45 after dark. All vehicles will be fitted with speed limiters during manufacture, or retrofitted, at an estimated cost to the buyer or owner of $3,340. The day and night limits will be activated by a photoelectric sensor linked to the vehicle’s on-board computer.

    White House defense

    In answer to complaints from vehicle owners, car manufacturers and the American Automobile Association, a White House spokesman remarked:

    “These features turn an ordinary car into an assault vehicle. Superchargers and turbochargers in particular are designed solely for aggressive driving. Nobody needs these machines to do their grocery shopping or take a trip to the shore, and nobody has any reason to go faster than the planned limits: If you need to get there sooner, start out earlier.

    “Four gallons will still take the average car 100 miles, similar to that of a plug-in electric, and the reduction in carbon emissions will help to save the planet. The president has said that if we can save the life of one child, these small sacrifices will be worthwhile.”

    The mandates will not apply to the president, members of his administration and their staffs, or members of Congress or the Supreme Court. They frequently need to drive faster in the course of their duties and have proven records of responsibility and prudence.


    Those opposed to the new law say the mandates are irrelevant. They will be ignored by drink-and-drive criminals and only punish law-abiding car owners. Cars do not cause drunk driving deaths any more than knives cause stabbing. They are caused by those who choose to drive drunk or drugged, and these are enabled by judges who accept plea bargains so as to keep cases moving through the courts and prevent prison overcrowding. This allows offenders, even with multiple convictions, to remain a hazard to other road users.

    Fines are derisory and license suspension futile — they keep on driving — and recidivism rates are high. If, instead, these miscreants were removed from the roads, if heavy fines and vehicle confiscation were imposed after the first offense and mandatory imprisonment after the second or subsequent ones, and if those under treatment for chronic alcoholism and drug abuse were barred from driving, thousands of lives would be saved. As “Stop & Frisk” has resulted in a large decrease in gun crimes in cities where it has been used, removing illicit guns and wanted felons from the streets, there should be a massive increase in roadside spot checks to stop impared drivers before they cause an accident.

    Supporters of the president’s new executive orders have called these counter-proposals racist, discriminatory against the poor, and cruel and unusual punishment. They say alcoholism and other substance abuse is a disease, not a behavior, and accuse those wishing to keep things the way they are of bowing to the AAA, clinging to their assault cars, and wishing to see even more innocents killed.

    Nick O’Dell lives in Phoenixville.

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