Has the governor and state assembly gone too far?
Our great state is not one for second chances. It’s actually more like five.
News started trickling out last week that Governor Bruce Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly have moved forward with a measure that would give drivers convicted of multiple DUIs an opportunity to redeem themselves. Starting in January of 2015, repeat offenders that have racked up four DUIs will be eligible to receive a restricted driving permit, only after proving that they’ve been alcohol and drug-free for at least three years. As of now, four DUIs means the state revokes your license.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that state representatives feel the new law is, in part, as much a deterrent as it is an incentive to keep people with bad records from making poor decisions. As noble as it may sound, the sentiment rings hallow in more ways than one.
I dare to guesstimate that there are thousands of people whose lives have been affected by drunk driving accidents. Using phrases like “second chance” and “turn their lives around” (language used by state reps) as public appeals for support is borderline offensive, especially when “second chance” in this case is much more than two. Surprisingly, the measure has earned the support of organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.) and Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists. I can’t presume to know the ins and outs of those conversations, but part of me has to believe that M.A.D.D. and A.A.I.M. want to promote the same “second chance” ideals as the state. But the process by which it came together doesn’t seem to account for the folks who have lost much more than a license.
For my money, repeat-offenders deserve little, if any, sympathy when it comes to drunk driving convictions, arrests or citations. Do first-time offenders deserve a second chance? Absolutely. After that, it’s not so much a mistake as it is a pattern; justifying that kind of behavior is hard to do, yet it seems Illinois is willing to give lots of people the benefit of the doubt. That’s hard when the statistics are so unfavorable.
The Sun-Times noted that more than 5,000 people in Illinois have been convicted of at least four DUIs. Illinois state police made 5,784 DUI arrests in 2014; Chicago police logged at least 3,321. Of the more than 34,000 DUI-related arrests made in 2013, 317 people were killed because of a drunk-driving-related accident. To the families who continue to live through the impact of poor decisions, this new law can’t help but feel backwards by giving four-time offenders another opportunity to get back on the road, even if their citation never led to an accident. It’s four chances too many.
What’s worse is that the precedent for future legislation has been established. What’s to stop the governor from making it six DUIs in 2017 if he and the assembly are willing to stretch it to five in 2016? Let’s hope we can keep our “second chances” in the state to a minimum moving forward.