I am very much opposed to drunk driving. If you are going to drive, don’t drink. If you have had more than one alcoholic beverage, don’t drive! Simple rule that I’ve never had any problem following. I do not agree with Jeffery Tucker that some drivers drive better after a few drinks. They self-report driving better. I’m certain sober drivers around them wouldn’t agree.
But, to the subject … a couple of years ago, a friend had too much to drink at a bar in Goldstream Valley. The Valley is several miles from Fairbanks, where his home is. It would have worked out to $110 cab fare and he didn’t have that kind of cash on him. It was -30 degrees (that’s below zero), so walking wasn’t an option. He didn’t feel safe riding with any of the people who were leaving Ivory Jack’s at the same time he was.
So, he did a sensible thing. He started his car, turned on the heater, climbed in the back seat and went to sleep. He was awakened five hours later by a State Trooper arresting him for drunk driving.
But, he didn’t drive the car, you say? No, he did not and he could prove it through all sorts of forensic tests that I won’t go into. What’s more, the manager of the bar had seen his car running in the parking lot as he left for home three hours before.
It didn’t matter. The police argued that he had had control over the keys of a working vehicle while drunk and, therefore, he was guilty of drunk driving. (By the way, in some jurisdictions, this key-control argument is being touted by police and prosecutors to prosecute campers in tents and even homeowners at their own home for driving under the influence. “We have to send a strong statement to potential drunk drivers that they shouldn’t go anywhere near a car when they’ve been drinking” is how the prosecutor phrased it to the jury. Yes, my friend opted for a jury trial, which acquitted him of drunk driving. His argument was “I never moved the car, so I wasn’t driving.” An Alaskan jury agreed.
Problem solved, right? No. Since our friend was arrested a couple of years ago, there have been at least a half-dozen cases of similar sensible party-goers who have been convicted (usually because they couldn’t afford to fight the charges) of drunk driving for sleeping it off in their cars. In other words, they were punished for choosing not to drive drunk. This new standard for drunk driving has also spread nation-wide, so there are many more of these cases than you might imagine. What’s more, we know people who say they would now choose to drive drunk rather than sleep it off in their car because they feel they are much less likely to get caught if they’re moving. So this is actually encouraging driving under the influence.
Much as I oppose drunk driving, I agree with this article. Ramp up enforcement of reckless driving (texting has been shown by a Transportation Research Board study to cause more accidents than drunk driving) and dial back the police power in one area that has clearly gotten out of control.