There oughtta be (another) law!

Demonstrating once again that no man’s women or cattle are safe while the Legislature is in session, a Connecticut lawmaker wants to extend our drunk driving laws. Drive a car drunk, lose both your driver’s license and your boating license. Too many beers on the old Sea-Ray? Lose both licenses too.

[Usual blather here about  how I am aware of the danger of drunk drivers, the horrible tragedies they cause, how they should be tied up and burned, twice, until sent to Hell by an angry God]. BUT:

Our legislature seems unaware of what these little alcohol law extensions do. I know of a minor, 18 years old, who was caught buying a six pack of beer to share with five of her friends. They weren’t driving but, because they’d used a car to get to the liquor store, they were charged with possession of alcohol by a minor and the loss of their driver’s licenses for three months. $25 fine, so big deal, right? Wrong. A suspension of a license dumps them into the assigned risk pool for three years, at an extra premium of $3,000 per year. That’s a $9,000 fine for one unconsumed beer, and our local State’s Attorney will not plea bargain on this crime. I defy you to (a) deny that you had a beer when you were 18 and (b) find an 18 -year-old who knows of this provision of the law. No knowledge, no deterrence.

Similarly, while I am aware of drunk boaters out there (even the police, who love this proposed law as they love all proposed criminal laws, admit that drunk boating is a rare occurrence) but is there any evidence that a fisherman who has too many beers in the sun will also drive our streets drunk while on land? None was mentioned in this article.

I don’t drink, at all, so please don’t send me clippings of horror stories – I’m aware of them. My point is that we need a sense of proportion here. Just as banning convicted sex offenders from our beaches goes too far, in my opinion, hitting a drunk boater with the loss of his car driver’s license, thousands of dollars of insurance premiums and possibly the loss of his job seems uncalled for, excessive and too harsh.


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14 responses to “There oughtta be (another) law!

  1. anonymous

    Agree, too many laws and taxes….but we live in a communist era

    Most of deviants lack a driver’s license or insurance and will continue to drive (or disobey whatever laws) anyway, so not sure laws (or prisons) really matter…targeted, forced sterilization is arguably far more effective and cheaper

    And those of means tend to know how to accomplish what they desire in a safe, low-profile manner…insurance premiums on high-end cars, homes, etc are often astonishingly low as high-end insurers seem to know how to price risk pools…and most smart money guys (by definition) know how to manage own risks in personal life, no matter laws

  2. Old Coot

    I categorically deny that I had a beer when I was 18. Don’t remember ever drinking just one until I wised-up a few years past that age.

  3. bluelobster

    As to drunken boating (and crime statistics in general): There is reported crime and then there is the unknown – and likely far greater – number of actual crimes. I submit that drunken boating is likely far more prevalent that you indicate. That boaters make their own roads in loosely patrolled wide open spaces while drivers are considerably more constrained may account for the fact that boating accidents are “rare”. But dead on L.I. Sound is just as dead as dead on I95. Sure, a sense of proportion is needed in the law; so is common sense behind the wheel or tiller. Those who lack the common variety get what they deserve. Higher insurance premiums could be the least of their pains.

    • christopherfountain

      We have laws punishing driving a vehicle or vessel when drunk, bluelobster. And if that drunken boater slams his boat into the marina, staggers off the dock and into his car to drive home, we have laws to nail him twice. I object to extending a penalty to include two crimes when only one has been comitted.

  4. Donato Loscalzo

    Chris, well said!!

    If there is something that really terrifies me here in the US is the absolute lack of proportionality that prosecutors, police and politicians seem not to have. Criminalizing everybody and everyone for even the smallest misdemeanor does not serve society: the US has already the largest inmate population in the western world, almost 3 million people behind bars on any given day. There are more blacks behind bars today (650,000) than enrolled in college…..

  5. Anonymous

    I have a huge concern with your classification of drunken boating as being rare. I can tell you as a lifelong sailor it is the complete opposite. Being on the water magnifies everything–remember cars have brakes. When out sailing drunken powerboaters (who are usually not very intelligent even when sober) are by far my biggest concern.

    • christopherfountain

      I’m a sailor too, Anon, and I’ve seen some wonderous things performed on the water by drunken boaters. In fact, those NFL players who drowned may not have tried freeing their anchor so badly if they hadn’t been drinking. But there are already laws on the books prohibiting that behavior – I’d prefer to see better enforcement of those laws than an extension of penalties on the few that are caught now.

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  7. Rhayader

    The author is absolutely right here — our habit of criminalizing everything under the sun is dangerous and ineffective.

    Nowhere is that more apparent than with our drug laws, which are incredibly draconian to say the least. We have completely lost sight of the constitutionally-stated purpose of law: to protect our rights and freedoms from the malicious activities of others. A crime must have a victim, plain and simple.

    We cannot legislate our way to a perfect society. In a country with no established religion, who is to say what is right or wrong, what is moral or immoral? The only thing we should be doing is protecting people from immediate, demonstrable encroachments upon their rights or well-being by others.

  8. parse

    But there are already laws on the books prohibiting that behavior – I’d prefer to see better enforcement of those laws than an extension of penalties on the few that are caught now.

    You wrote this in reply to a lifelong sailor who objected to your assertion that drunken boating was rare, but your comments doesn’t seem to respond in any meaningful sense to his comment.

  9. Peter

    I had a beer when I was 18. But then again, I was in Canada (Quebec to be exact) so it was legal. Having seen the difference between the two societies responses to drinking, I am wholly in favour of lowering the legal age.

  10. ceanf

    parse you decided to rip on the wrong comment.

    Anonymous’ comment, which Chris responded to, was a rambling collage of sentences. First he says drunk boating is not rare. Fair enough. Then he justifies it by claiming that it is harder to drive a boat drunk. Then wraps it up with an obvious point that applies to driving a car just the same as it does to driving a boat. one paragraph, three sentences, three different ideas.

    Chris’ response points out that he is a sailor too, and that he has also seen his share of drunk boating. Then he supports that assertion with a relevant allegory. And he wraps it up by re-enforcing the point made in his previous post that we already have laws for drunk driving boats and cars and that there is no need for a new law linking the two. One paragraph, three sentences, one idea.

    Now tell me, whose post had a meaningful point and purpose? It appears to me that Chris’ post was much more meaningful and better written all around. Just because you didn’t understand it does not mean he didn’t ‘respond in any meaningful sense’.

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  12. dweeb

    Driving is a privilege, not a right. Why shouldn’t it be denied to someone who has demonstrated a willingness to disregard the impact of alcohol on operating a vehicle? Boat/car, either way, it’s the act of operating a vehicle when one is not fit to do so. In my state, you can get a DUI conviction on a bicycle, golf cart, or motorized bar stool.

    Yes, I had a beer at 18, but I lived in a state where 18 was the legal drinking age.