‘Tis the season – to watch out for drunk drivers.

Everyone has seen those drivers who are not totally in control of their vehicle. You give yourself extra space and move away from the car as it drifts in and out of its lane or slows inexplicably and then speeds up. You cautiously look to see if the driver is on a cell phone and look around for a way out should they get too close to you while wondering if you should dial 911.

It’s criminal really, that with all the other potential obstacles to watch for on the road, we have to concern ourselves with people who are still driving while their ability to do so is impaired — for whatever reason — and worry about our loved ones when they are on the road especially during the holiday season.

Politicians in Prince Edward Island have come up with a controversial yet potentially effective deterrent for those who have already been convicted of drunk driving: special licence plates are likely coming soon to Canada’s smallest province.

At first thought to be some kind of ‘scarlett letter’ the driving public would recognize, P.E.I. Transportation Minister Robert Vessey says the plates would only be recognizable to law enforcement officials patrolling P.E.I. highways.

While the exact details have yet to be worked through, the plate would have a sequence on it, either a letter or a number or a combination of both that would identify to law enforcement that this vehicle is registered to someone who has been convicted of impaired driving.

It will likely be for drivers with three or more impaired driving convictions.

Another provision also under consideration could see police given the authority to pull over drivers with an impaired driving licence plate even if they have not broken any rules of the road.

Vessey says this would give police another tool to curb the significant problem of impaired driving in P.E.I. Data from Statistics Canada shows Prince Edward Island had one of the highest rates of impaired driving in the country in 2011. Even worse, since 2008, 40 per cent of impaired drivers in P.E.I. were repeat offenders, hence this controversial tagging measure.

It’s this repeat-offenders problem the special licence plate is aimed at tackling.

The minister says it’s not meant to publicly identify or shame drivers who have been caught drinking and driving, but detractors say that this is exactly what it is about.

There is no evidence to suggest that shaming repeat offenders — with measures such as naming them in the newspaper — are effective anyway.

It is a debate that comes up in the newsroom from time to time.

It is our policy to not name people charged with criminal offences unless the charges are significant such as murder or attempted murder. The reason for this is our inability to provide the outcome of the charges, and it is strongly felt there is a moral obligation to do so.

We simply don’t know who is convicted and while the names of those charged are a matter of public record, their conviction is not, unless we are present in court to hear it.

The problem with this – and this is why we are revisiting the issue – is the matter of public safety.

So while considering whether or not to publish the names of those charged with impaired driving, as well as other offences, is up for discussion.

Another consideration is whether or not public shaming is effective when it comes to drunk driving, although I doubt that is the intention of PEI officials. But I think the real question that needs to be asked is: if there are multiple convictions, why are they still driving?

So with Christmas only a few short weeks away, please be careful out there. And do the right thing: don’t drink and drive.

Source: Niagara This Week


Last updated on: 2013-11-28 | Link to this post