Apr 29, 2016 - TECHNOLOGY OUR LAST HOPE IN FIGHT AGAINST DRUNK DRIVING


Wheels editor Norris McDonald writes that education and tough sentencing are not working in the battle against drinking and driving so that leaves just one remaining weapon.


A year or so ago, I was having dinner with a friend and we were discussing problems facing short-track speedways in North America. Many are closing. We wondered if there was any way to save the industry. He concluded the conversation with these words:

“I am convinced there is no solution.”

I remembered those words the other day when I received an email from another friend. “I’d be interested in your take on Marco Muzzo,” he wrote.

Muzzo was impaired when his car hit another that contained six people — three children, two grandparents and a great-grandmother. The children and their grandfather were killed; the other two were seriously injured. Muzzo was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

The judgment was handed down the week of March 28. That weekend, 13 people in York Region were charged with impaired driving. If you Google “impaired driving” today, links to at least 15 news stories will pop up on your computer screen with pointers to 23 others and most of those incidents took place in recent days.

Immediately following Muzzo’s sentencing, there were cries of anguish at what was perceived to be a light sentence (although some lawyers suggested it was one of the toughest ever imposed in Canada). Columnists and bloggers wrote that the justice system had failed the dead and survivors.

I say today it is more than the justice system. I say we’re all at fault. You, me, governments, the courts - everybody. But what to do about it? I fear the words of my friend — “no solution” — could prove to be prophetic unless we take the only step remaining.

It’s obvious that educating people about the dangers of drinking and driving isn’t working. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the police, among others, have been raising awareness for years and yet — according to a survey published just this week — 25 per cent of Canadian drivers (repeat: one quarter of all Canadian drivers) have gotten behind the wheel of a vehicle knowing full-well they were legally drunk and yet they did so feeling confident in their abilities to be able to drive safely. I bet Muzzo felt that way too.

So, if education and awareness aren’t doing it, what will?

Throwing the book at someone doesn’t appear to be working either. Here was impaired driver Muzzo, sent to jail for 10 years for killing four people and hurting two others and yet, withinhours, police were stopping and charging people with the same offence — minus, of course, the death and destruction.

The way the Canadian system works, Muzzo will be eligible for full parole after serving one-third of his sentence, which works out to be a little more than three years.

Muzzo is guilty of killing those children and their grandfather. We’re at fault because he’ll only serve (probably) three years of that 10-year sentence. And why are we at fault? Because we elect the politicians who allow this to happen. And if we elect politicians who say they’re really going to get tough, the courts won’t allow it — as was illustrated by two Supreme Court decisions handed down just last week.

It’s never-ending.

If awareness and legislation can’t handle the problem, there is only one thing left to do: let technology do the policing.

Every car sold in Canada should be equipped with a built-in breathalyzer sensor that will not allow anyone who has been drinking (or, increasingly, smoking marijuana) to start it. You could be teetotal and still have to blow. Even a trace of alcohol or pot should be enough to disable the starting mechanism.

There has been talk for several years about making this happen. The time is now. An avalanche of public opinion might do it. Write your MP and tell him or her there is not a second left to waste.

When his words are applied to this case, my friend is wrong. There is a solution. We just have to make it happen.

Source: The Star


 

Last updated on: 2016-05-20 | Link to this post