I had to check my thinking on Governor Gregoire’s recent call for “sobriety checkpoints.”
Sobriety checkpoints are roadblocks wherein vehicles are randomly stopped in order to determine if the driver might be under the influence of alcohol or some other substance.
Given my penchant for not wanting the government to stick its nose where it doesn’t belong, I knew what my reaction would be, but I wanted to run that reaction by someone who’s rationality has kept me grounded for more than 35 years.
When I asked my wife - the voice of reason and moderation in our family - what she thought about the proposal, she said that being stopped at such a checkpoint “would make me absolutely furious.”
Having had my opinion reinforced, I can now continue.
My opinion of drunk drivers isn’t what would be described as charitable.
Take a trip down “Google” lane. Type in “drunk driving accidents” and the stories you’ll find will boil your blood. One reason will be that, in far too many cases, the individual under the influence and who caused the carnage too often tends to walk away with minor injuries while the innocent get taken to either the hospital or the morgue.
Like many of you, I’ve lost close friends to these clowns and I can’t understand why many of them get off with a light sentence and end up back behind the wheel instead of breaking big rocks into little ones in some godforsaken jail for long periods of time.
I know that some get second, third, and fourth chances because of who they are. I know that some have the money to hire attorneys who can argue the situation into knots that no one can untie. And then there are those who seem to just go through the system and are allowed back on the road until they maim or kill someone.
None of this is right, but it is far too common.
So now, into this situation comes a suggestion that we allow the police to set up roadblocks to help catch those driving under the influence.
Sorry, but as reasonable as it may sound and as good are the intentions behind it, I can’t support it.
If I’m driving with a broken tail light, stop me and I’ll understand. If I’m speeding or miss a stop sign, pull me over and I’ll accept the ticket. If I’m weaving in and out of traffic and behaving like a bull in the woods, hit the light bar and I’ll understand why I’m being asked to recite the alphabet backwards. I’m an adult. If I screw up on the road, I understand there are consequences for my stupidity.
That said though, if I’m minding the speed limit, buckled in as I should be, and going about my business in a vehicle that is in all respects legal, then leave me the heck alone.
I know that driving is a privilege and that the state makes the rules regarding that privilege. However, as regards sobriety checkpoints, I think they’re a step too far. I think that they’re one more inch down an already too long road of government incursion into our private lives. I think that they’re another stretch of the government’s arms into places that those arms shouldn’t be and I’m not liking it.
I want drunk drivers off of the road just as badly as anyone out there. Just don’t ask me to support the idea of innnocent individuals being pulled over at random and questioned without cause.
Instead of sobriety checkpoints, step up patrols in areas where and during times when we know such driving will occur. Make announcements that the police are going to be exceedingly vigilant while on patrol in order to spot and apprehend those driving under the influence. Make the penalties for DUI hurt and, if someone is caught driving under the influence, then beat them over the head with those penalties until the light of understanding goes on in their eyes.
It wouldn’t bother me in the slightest if some repeat offender lost his or her car, spent long periods of time in jail, and was denied a license for years afterward - if said offender were allowed to get it back at all.
Ultimately, however, aside from infuriating my wife, sobriety checkpoints are just not what a free society is all about.