top of page

Is it zero tolerance for drink driving?

Updated: Jul 3, 2023




SHORT ANSWER?

Yes.

It is zero tolerance. If you plead guilty or are found guilty of drink driving, you will be disqualified.

That’s 100% guaranteed.

No exceptions.


Zero tolerance is a political concept:
politicians like talking about “zero tolerance”
because they want to be seen
as being “tough on crime”.


What does this mean?

It means that your options are limited.

Very limited.

If you plead guilty you will face an automatic ban, regardless of your circumstances.

If you’re the sole breadwinner at home with 5 children to rear and you need your car for driving it makes no difference.


It doesn’t matter.

You will still be disqualified from driving.

That seems very harsh.


I happen to agree.


Most of the people coming to court for drink driving do so for the first time.

By that I mean they’ve never been in trouble before.


They’ve never even been to court before.


If those people could be given the opportunity of paying a substantial fine (e.g., a percentage of their annual income) to avoid a disqualification they would do it in a heartbeat.


It would also make far more sense.


A percentage of a person’s income, not a fine.

A set fine might allow the well-off to escape disqualification because they could afford it.


Most people would choose this approach and it would cut down on the lengthy court cases involved as well as many of the appeals.

The monies saved could be used to fund educational initiatives designed to warn people of the dangers of drink driving.


It could be used to help organisations dedicated to helping victims of drink driving.



If you’re not seen to be
tough on crime
you run the risk of being viewed as
“unelectable”.


THEY DO THIS SORT thing on the continent you know.


In some places you get fined severely and are made to re-sit your drivers test but you’re not automatically thrown off the road for a first offence.

Its sort of a rehabilitative approach: they want the motorist to feel the pain, but not the devastation of disqualification.


Because other people are affected too: like the motorist’s innocent spouse and children.

They did nothing wrong, but they’re indirectly punished for the acts of another.


But we don’t do that here.


Instead, we adopt the penal approach: we punish the offender.

Quite harshly.

Our politicians regard that approach as "progressive".


We force them down the path of pleading guilty or pleading not guilty.

And because most people simply cannot imagine life without their car, many are forced to choose the path of pleading not guilty.

Thus clogging up the court system.

But they don’t see it as “clogging up” the court system.

They see it as being offered no choice, of being forced into this position, of trying to survive.


Obviously, this approach wouldn’t be open to everyone arrested for drink driving.

And it would only be open to a motorist once: get caught a second time and you’re going to court.


If someone dies or is seriously injured, you don’t qualify either.


Wouldn’t it make more sense to
give them a choice between running
the risk of disqualification in court
or paying 10-20% of their salary and
being guaranteed of staying on the road?


But the majority of drink driving cases involve simple roadside stops that don’t involve any injury to a third party.


They don’t involve accidents or damage to property either.

Wouldn’t it make sense to allow this majority to pay a substantial fine to avoid a disqualification?








Back to zero tolerance.


In Ireland you have 2 choices: plead guilty and go off the road or plead not guilty and hope that you will be acquitted at trial.


Zero tolerance is a political concept: politicians like talking about “zero tolerance” because they want to be seen as “tough on crime”.


If you’re not seen to be tough on crime you run the risk of being viewed as “unelectable”. This is why -in the run up to every election- the ruling government of the day criminalises a raft of headline-grabbing “offences”, as if the criminal law didn’t cover practically every conceivable offence known already.

BUT DOES IT REALLY make economic sense to throw a first-time breadwinner off the road where he or she is in danger of losing their job, their mortgage and maybe end up on the dole?


How do the rest of us benefit from that?


None of this is to condone drink driving.


Not even the people I represent are in favour of drink driving.

In fact they’ll tell you they’re absolutely against it.

They can’t explain why they did it and in truth almost never try to.


The one thing that unites them is a deep sense of guilt, of shame, a prevailing thought that, “they’ll think I was in the pub all day”.


The “they” are their families and friends, work colleagues, society at large.

Some people have been known to emigrate after they’ve been convicted of drink driving because they need their car for work and cannot work anymore.


Is this policy really sensible?






Does it make sense for society to severely punish someone for a one-off mistake that didn’t cause any injury or illness?


Wouldn’t it make far more sense to give the person a choice between running the risk of disqualification in court or paying 10-20% of their salary and being guaranteed of staying on the road?


Think what charitable organisations across the country could do with this extra money.


And as the person having to pay it, at least you’d be able to stay on the road and know that the money you’ve paid is being used for a good cause.


Isn’t that approach much more progressive?



104 views0 comments

Commenti


bottom of page