The sooner people realize there is no single solution to the impaired driving problem, the sooner we will be able to develop viable solutions. Here is a clue: penalties alone do not work. Why is that? Paula Perrin answers that question in this Journal Sentinel article. Because as she said, “I still thought I would not get caught again, and I didn’t think I was that drunk.” This after she had already been convicted of six OWI offenses. She added, “People didn’t think it was a big deal.” The subtext: because everyone does it. So Paula got arrested again. Her alcohol concentration was 0.19. She was charged and convicted of seventh offense OWI and went to prison. I wrote about her in a previous blog post. She enrolled in the earned release program that included mandatory treatment. She has been sober for over three years now.
While fines and jail may work for the average drunk driver, most repeat offenders have a serious substance abuse problem. Paula observes, “They could have given me 10 years, but if it didn’t fix what was wrong…I guarantee I would have been back out, drinking and probably driving.” Why? Because, if you recall, she said she didn’t think she would get caught and she didn’t think she was that drunk. In some ways Paula is lucky. She didn’t kill or injure anyone in all the times she drove driving drunk. And she is grateful for her sobriety.
Perhaps Matthew Elliott, John Lyons, Travis Quillen, and Stephanie Lord will consider their drunk driving arrests not as misfortunes, but as fortunate events because no one was killed or injured. They have the opportunity to make changes in their lives. A drunk driving arrest should be a wake-up call.