Alaska editorial: Putting DUI 'scarlet letters' on drivers' licenses a good idea

Posted: Monday, May 28, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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As the Legislature wrapped up its work, one particularly noteworthy bill made its way to the governor's desk, and she should sign it.

Among other details outlined, the bill will require an identifying mark on the driver's licenses of those convicted of DUI who have been ordered not to drink alcohol.

Certainly, the marks won't stop those who shouldn't drink from drinking. Ultimately, it always is up to the individual to decide to do the right thing, no matter what is written down as law. Sometimes it seems nothing will make a drinker stop, though the drinkers themselves might wish for a magic bullet that would help them stop hurting their families and themselves, and potentially hurting others.

Those who serve or sell alcohol to those who have already had enough might be given pause by the requirement, though. A person flashing an ID that says they shouldn't be drinking is flashing a red flag. And the more those who serve alcohol think about the ramifications of serving one too many, the better.

Time and again, we read of those who are arrested for drunk driving, and not for the first time. Even with the state's mandatory sentencing for drunk driving convictions, which yield steadily more time in jail, some people can't or won't stop on their own. Luckily for most, they are caught before they have a chance to destroy countless lives in a crash.

The law should do everything it can to protect citizens without restricting freedom unnecessarily. Repeat offenders should be on a shorter leash than most; they have lost the trust accorded all citizens at the outset. Once the trust is lost, even drunk drivers can earn it back again. But redeveloping trust is a lengthy process.

In that process, offenders must be held more strictly accountable for their actions. If that "scarlet letter" on a driver's license is what is takes for some not to drink and drive, so be it. It will be a constant reminder of a costly error; sometimes the best prevention is a good memory.

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