Sunday, October 26, 2014

Getting Off the Hook Too Easily?

I usually do not pay much attention to the Chicago Tribune newspaper that sits on my kitchen counter everyday. However, a recent article on the front page caught my attention, specifically because I am a new driver. The article discusses the consequences one has to face after being convicted of a DUI in Illinois. There is a law that states when a person is arrested for DUI, one must pay a maximum fine of $2,500 and their license will be taken away for a minimum of one year; however, some suburbs are taking this law too lightly by letting people get away with just paying a higher fine in lieu of losing their license temporarily.

Jesse White, the Secretary of State, agrees that town prosectuors need to obey the state law, which states no matter the circumstances, a license is lost after a DUI. In the Chicago Tribune, he was quoted and said, "'DUI offenders should have to face the consequences of driving drunk. Paying steeper fines should not allow offenders to escape the penalties of their actions.'"

With an alcohol limit of 0.08, one can consume approximately four drinks.

Jesse White stated it perfectly. This is yet another law that favors wealthy members of society. People in suburbs are taking advantage of their wealth and using it as an excuse to avoid losing their license for a year, if not more. By simply paying a larger fine, they do not have to deal with the severe consequence of losing their license, so they will not effectively learn the severity of drinking and drinking. The middle-upper-class Americans who pay a larger fine are typically not very concerned about their money. While spending more of their money is not ideal, it will not be detrimental to their everyday lives, unlike losing a license. A license loss forces them to live with their consequence for a longer period of time and reflect upon their actions. By not being able to drive, they can learn the value of driving and learn to not take it for granted by drinking and driving.

In Downers Grove, by simply paying a fine 26% higher (280 dollars more) than the average fine that includes a temporary removal of a license, they are allowed to keep their license. For members of middle-upper class, this number is so minuscule and people would happily pay an extra 280 if it means keeping their license. This is hardly a punishment for residents of wealthier suburbs like Downers Grove.

If someone convicted of a DUI and did not lose their license, they could just drive drunk the next day and risk getting into a crash yet again. This is particularly concerning to me, for I just got my license a couple of weeks ago. Driving itself is already intimidating and frightening, and when you add drunk drivers into the mix, it puts drivers, like myself, at a greater risk of getting in an accident. I, like many other teenagers, usually drive on weekend nights (when the most drunk drivers are out), and would prefer to drive on streets where everyone is aware and safe.

The state law regarding DUIs in Illinois right now is severe, but it is what we need to limit the amount of drunk drivers. If the law continues being used loosely, people will continue to drink and drive and put more people in danger of being injured, or possibly dying. Everyday in America, approximately 28 people die a day (10,220 people a year) as a result of drunk driving crashes, one being Sarah McCausland, a New Trier graduate who was killed by a drunk driver at the beginning of this year. Maybe all this could have been prevented if people saw drinking and driving as a serious matter and obeyed the consequences presented in the state law.


  1. Claire:
    I completely agree with your opinion. People should not be getting "off the hook" that easily for drunk driving. I remember in my drivers ed class we talked about how in other countries the punishment for drinking and driving is much more severe than in the states. One country (I think in South America) went as far to say that the drunk driver could never drive again. More strict polices and laws can lead to less drunk drivers because they do not want to go through the harsh consequences. I think that if the laws were made more strict about DUI's this could help save thousands of lives across the nation.

  2. Claire,
    I agree with both you and Stephanie. Drunk driving is an extremely serious action which ends the lives of innocent people, and simply fining people as a punishment is not going to be effective. The article states that these fines are being implemented in the suburbs, but people in these areas are most likely very financially stable and can pay these fines without much difficulty. Therefore, a fine for drunk driving is not going to keep people safe, but instead, it will probably make the roads even more dangerous because people will have less fear of the punishment.

  3. Hi, Claire (with an "i")!

    Certainly a very important topic and worthy of our attention. But as wordy as this post is, I am still left with unanswered questions:

    1) WHY is this happening in Illinois?
    2) Is there no possibility of forgiveness for this kind of lapse in judgement?
    3) How is this an American problem?

    I really liked how you focused on social class differences in how the law is applied -- very insightful. But are all suburbs equal in ability to pay?