Since the first vehicles carried the first people from one location to a new destination, safety has been a concern for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. According to Bachus & Schanker, even when nobody is hurt, the financial consequences of an accident can be devastating. Laws and restrictions have been put in place to help protect all of us. Lately however, traffic laws have in some ways taken drastic turns. Are laws designed to reduce and prevent dangerous traffic violations becoming too severe? Let’s take a good look at the current state of some of the strictest driving laws and the consequences for breaking them.
Strict Driving Laws
There are some very unusually harsh traffic laws out there. For example, in Virginia, one can get a $3,550 speeding ticket. Virginia is in fact universally known to have particularly draconian traffic laws. In Virginia, speeding is legally on par with assault with a firearm, and sexual battery.
In cases involving car accidents nationwide, differences in individual physical characteristics and factors like body type and resistance to alcohol are not taken into consideration at all. Everyone is treated as if one metric should apply to all drivers. While this is legally convenient, it is not fair in practice. A person of shorter stature and lighter build will generally have lower alcohol tolerance than a taller person of a larger build.
Speed Limits Increase and So Do Penalties
This excellent study shows how each state ranks against the others in enforcement for speeding and other traffic-related offenses. With the number of drivers increasing every year, more car accidents are happening, resulting in more data for legislators. They use this information to make decisions they hope will result in the safest roads possible. As speed limits increase, so do the punishments for breaking them.
Speed limits worldwide are increasing incrementally over the past forty years. 55 MPH was a standard in the United States, but that limit was abandoned long ago. This has led to increased traffic deaths. The statistics are unequivocally linked. When the national speed limit was set at 55 MPH back in 1974, the fatality rate per million miles driven in the US fell from 4.28 to 2.73. Today, there are places where you can legally drive in excess of 80 MPH.
In Colorado, the legal limit that gets you a DUI is 0.08% BAC, however, it is even technically punishable to have anything over 0.05% BAC. This discrepancy between legal driving limit, and limit prosecutable by law, is unique among US states.
The Rising Cost of a DUI
There is a zero-tolerance policy in Arizona for DUI offenders, where a first offense can result in months of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.
In many cases the first time a person is caught driving with a BAC over 0.08%, the automatically get their license suspended for six months. For young people, just starting out in life, this punishment can be disastrous. Not only can a person lose thousands in lost wages, due to limited transportation, but they would also get caught up in high court costs and months of mandatory paid classes. These circumstances can drastically alter the course of a persons’ life for years to come.
It would be a good idea to take a fresh look at how drivers are punished for their infractions. Case-by-case determinations regarding punishment for instances of DUI, speeding, reckless driving, and other traffic violations might be more effective in deterring, preventing, and minimizing damages and fatalities. When every offense is treated like someone was seriously injured, when in most cases, someone was not, the punishment loses its meaning by seeming disproportionate to the crime. Using harsh punishments only when they are actually deserved highlights their usefulness.