FACEOFF: DUI bumper stickers

Doth protest too much

Written by: Samantha Harfenist

Studies show that most drunk drivers drive slowly in order to compensate for their imbalance. If someone driving ahead of you is going really slowly, most of us will bypass via the other lane. Suddenly, the car swerves and sideswipes you. Add a child or elderly person in your vehicle, and you have a possible recipe for disaster.

Washington and Virginia lawmakers are set to put into place a law that will require those who have been convicted of DUI to have a bumper sticker on their car. This idea was proposed as a safety precaution for the public in order to alert other drivers as to the possible danger on the road as well as for police to keep an extra eye on them. If passed, other states could follow suit.

South Florida is not known for its courteous drivers. Add the slow reaction time, swerving and the bad judgment of an intoxicated driver, and you have the very real possibility that the next time your loved ones see you, you will be in a body bag.

I’d like the legislator to take it a step further. It would be nice to know that the person in front of you could be driving drunk, again. I’d like to have one on the front of the car. Have you ever tried to cross a road by foot in Florida? Even if you have the right of way, it’s like playing Chicken.

A decade ago, my older sister was convicted of  DUI twice and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. She doesn’t drink anymore. When asked, she agreed with the state of Virginia’s decision.

She told me, “It’s not a scarlet letter. If the police pull me over now, I have nothing to hide. I’ll pass the breathalyzer test. [If] other drivers are more vigilant around me, so what.”

I concur.

Persons convicted of DUIs shouldn’t claim to be victims of police and public profiling. They did the crime. They did the time. And now, they have to live with the consequences. When they got behind the wheel drunk, there was the very real chance that they could have killed someone.

Another important thing to remember is that these people won’t be forced to have these stickers because they were suspected of being drunk while driving. They were arrested, convicted and served their time.

We have a registry for sexual offenders to alert people when the criminal moves into that neighborhood. These are individuals who have been arrested, convicted and promised that they’ll never do it again. Sound familiar? And, yet, we have no problem keeping track of criminals who pose a danger to our children. Opponents to the bill seem to forget that drunk drivers can mow down the kids who are playing baseball on the neighborhood streets. Drunk drivers may not be child molesters, but they can be child killers.

My cousin was speeding on I-95 while intoxicated. He was swerving in and out of the lanes, and he slammed into the back of a parked State Trooper’s car going more than 60 miles per hour. Thankfully, the officer was not in the vehicle. It took almost a year of physical therapy before my cousin could walk again. The State Trooper? Accident officials concluded that had the officer been in the car at the time of the collision the only way his wife and two kids could spend time with him today would be by visiting his grave.

These people shouldn’t be argumentative if they have nothing to hide. They have been given a second chance. They have their license back. With someone dying every hour from an alcohol-caused car accident, society can’t afford to minimize the consequences. We should forgive them, but we shouldn’t forget.


We don’t need “scarlet letters”

Written by: Juan Gallo

A DUI is a terrible thing. In fact, as terrible as it is, one would have to consider himself or herself lucky to just get a DUI and not have hurt anyone else. The consequences for receiving a DUI are fierce. There is community service, fines, possible jail time, AA meetings, or losing your job. Ultimately, it would mean a night of fun that  led to a bad decision, which will, in one way or another, alter your life forever.

Speaking from the perspective of someone who’s been hit by a drunk driver as well as had a family member who was arrested for DUI, I have seen both sides of the issue. On one hand, I was very fortunate to have escaped totally unharmed from that accident. Although the driver who hit me was also unharmed, I couldn’t help but watch as he stood there incoherently while his girlfriend sobbed and pleaded with police as he was taken away in handcuffs. I was glad to be OK and disappointed for the loss of my car. But, I also felt pity for this man whose fun night became a night he would regret for a very long time.
I also remember my relative and the time he was arrested for driving under the influence. A very successful 20-something year old, he partied like many of us do, but with little regard for laws or his own mortality. Fortunately, he got busted without harming himself or others. I remember how that day affected him and in the long-run it helped him change his life  to become one of the people in my family who I’m closest to and admire most.

I’m also reminded of the moving film, “Rachel Getting Married.” Anne Hathaway was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, for her portrayal of a recovering drug addict, who was responsible for the death of her younger sibling, who died in a car accident while she was driving under the influence. Throughout the movie, Kym (Hathaway) and her family deal with the torment of their loss, the guilt and their attempt to recover from this deep wound.

Like any other movie, unless we’ve actually experienced such an event, we can only imagine what it would be like to be in that particular situation. Still, as I imagine every one of those scenarios, I can’t fathom anybody that would benefit from some kind of sign on their car to  remind them, and notify everyone else, that they committed some horrible mistake in the past.

It seems to me that this would only cause a sentiment of judgment and humiliation upon people who have probably already experienced their own personal distress over their past actions.

I understand that I’m giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt in more ways that one. The most significant way is by assuming that we have the ability to tap into some kind of divine ability that allows us to forgive others no matter how badly we’ve been wronged, how much these people have hurt us, or how unnatural it may seem to show love and compassion in place of hate and anger. But I assume this only because I’ve seen this miraculous notion at work.

I’m not saying that a DUI is no big deal. It’s terrible. It displays immaturity, irresponsibility, disregard for others, and most of all, stupidity. What I’m saying is that I’m not the man I was yesterday. Just like you are not the person you were yesterday or the same person you will be tomorrow. You’ve made mistakes. I’ve made mistakes. That doesn’t mean we’ll make them again. But if our fellow humans don’t forgive us, then what chance have we of forgiving ourselves, starting over, healing or growing?

We often talk about change and a better world, but unless we become the change we want to see then, that change is never going to see the light. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and, instead of saying “I would never do that,” understand that you are human and, while you may certainly never do that, you are not without blame for many other things. Like a wise man once said, “Let he without sin cast the first stone.”


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