The costs to society of a DUI

Thanks to The News & Advance for advanced warning of law enforcement DUI checkpoints in conjunction with upcoming holidays.

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America generally prohibits unreasonable seizure (a traffic stop is legally a seizure), but in 1990, a conservative Supreme Court led by Chief Justice William Rehnquist and populated by a majority of his conservative colleagues voted 6-3 to make an exception for sobriety checkpoints. Hence, you may be stopped without reasonable cause and have your vehicle observed for open alcoholic beverage containers, while you are asked to answer questions designed to reveal the alcohol content of your breath.

Over the previous 30 years, the nation had sufficient data to determine how this slight to an individual’s constitutional rights is working. Here in Virginia, traffic fatalities have been held to only a 12 percent increase over the previous year.

But lawmakers have to balance that increase in the loss of life with the economic benefit of a growing intoxication industry in the Old Dominion.

One might think the expense of a DUI would result in an annual decrease in the violation. But, it does not. At a minimum, an individual in alcohol addiction is further victimized by attorney fees, court costs, increased insurance costs and potential loss of driving privileges. There is sufficient profit from sales of alcohol to provide public service messages warning of the dangers of alcohol and to pay for the law enforcement to enforce alcohol-related statutes.

The DUI driver isn’t the only victim of the alcohol industry. How many of the 278 alcohol related traffic deaths in 2018 were innocent victims of a drunken driver? I’m sure that’s what weighs heavily on the minds of our elected officials. (Heh, heh, just kidding.). Like the victims of the domestic arms industry, its all an economic balancing act.

WILLIAM A. MILLER

Forest

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