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Attitude toward DUIs needs adjustment

Some people only learn the hard way. That seems to be the case when individuals decide to drive drunk or let someone “less drunk” get behind the wheel.

Students in USF’s public relations department conducted a study using an online survey and two focus groups. They found that instead of designating drivers to not drink during a night on the town, many people usually employ the person who is the least drunk of the group to do the driving.

These attitudes may correlate with DUI conviction numbers going up statewide, from 42,167 in 2003 to 45,926 in 2004 – almost 9 percent – according to an article in the Tampa Tribune on Nov. 15.

The students also found that 48 percent of the study’s participants believed that for them, getting a DUI was not possible. However, out of these same participants, 42 percent knew someone who has gotten a DUI.

If these studies are any indication, people are not taking a DUI charge and its ramifications – not only judicial, but also physical – very seriously. State lawmakers are noticing this fact and are thinking that if jail time, massive fines and restricted driving privileges do not work, public embarrassment may be the next step.

According to the Tribune, Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, has proposed a law that would require those who have restricted driving privileges due to a DUI to have a pink license plate on their car, with the first three letters reading “DUI.”

This is a proactive move to work toward reducing the amount of DUI convictions in Florida. For some offenders, getting a DUI conviction is not enough to scare them into making better decisions when it comes to drinking and driving. Surely, these tags would be embarrassing to those who are forced to get them. However, this further measure may be the catalyst such a person needs to make changes in their habits.

Another portion of the bill is questionable, however. Police would be allowed to pull over people with pink tags “without probable cause,” the bill states.

The bright pink tag itself seems like a good idea, but the police being allowed to pull over those who have these tags for no apparent reason is simply unconstitutional. If a driver is swerving or driving at unsafe speeds, that’s one thing, but to pull a person over simply because of a pink tag is absolutely nonsensical.

Driving drunk or allowing someone “less drunk” to drive is an obvious lapse in judgment. Countless public service announcements and educational programs have repeatedly urged citizens to “think before they drink” and select a designated driver before going out. Sometimes people get lucky and get home safely, but the key word is lucky – and luck is not always on one’s side.