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DUI 'shame' Web site probably won't work


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POSTED: Sunday, November 22, 2009

After countless programs, awareness campaigns, random traffic checks and numerous laws with punishment ranging from stiff cash penalties, revocation of licenses and prison time, Honolulu police will try a new tactic to curb drunken driving.

That's shaming, or what's called in island slang, making A.

In hopes of changing reckless behavior, police will post on the Web photos and names of people arrested for DUI.

For 24 hours every Wednesday, drivers yet to be convicted of the crime will have their mugs displayed under the heading “;Oahu's Drunk Drivers,”; subjecting the accused to humiliation and embarrassment. It will be a mortifying exhibit for all the looky-looks and busybodies inclined to log in.

Neighbors, bosses, office colleagues, insurance

adjusters, lawyers, ex-girlfriends and business clients also will be able to see their rumpled, bleary-eyed visages shot in the least flattering of circumstances.

As is appropriate, questions about constitutionality have kicked in. Legality will have to be sorted out, as well, the effectiveness of public disgrace.

A whole lot of time and effort is spent on DUI prevention, but people still chug down brewskis, climb behind the wheel and proceed to wreck lives.

That's partly because drinking is a socially acceptable habit even to the point that drinkers look askance at nondrinkers. When they decline a glass of wine, they are suspected of holding weird religious beliefs or of being overweeningly moralistic when they might just be allergic (me) or simply don't like the taste or the physical and psychological sensation they get from a jigger of spirits.

High-end restaurants and gourmets promote the notion that food absolutely cannot be enjoyed to full measure without wine. We are told that an herb-crusted roast of suckling pig is palate-waste if not accompanied by a crystal-enrobed dose of Beaujolais.

Without a flute of Champagne there's no celebration at New Year's. The absence of beer at a Super Bowl party would have football fans heading for the door, no matter if the table is ladened with poke from Tamura's. No Longs ad is complete without a couple of pages of liquor on sale. Lacking drink, certain holidays, like St. Patrick's Day, would collapse.

I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade. Though I don't imbibe, I savor the scents of some spirits, especially scotch, and mostly appreciate the company of people who get happy when they take a tot or two.

How to stop over-indulgence followed by vehicle operation is the problem, and liquor-related laws mainly focus on after the fact. Maybe booze should be treated more like a drug, since it has addictive qualities and can lead to poor health, and because its overuse is detrimental to individuals and communities.

Just as sin taxes applied to tobacco have helped reduce smoking, higher tariffs on liquor could minimize drinking, and heaven knows we sure could use the extra revenues.

Will 24 hours of embarrassment, fleeting shame, be successful? Probably not.