In today’s world, it’s difficult to live without a car. In countries like the United States, it’s often difficult to efficiently travel from place to place by foot or through public transportation, making even basic necessities like working and grocery shopping a hardship. Maintaining a full-time job without a car is almost impossible for some people. Therefore, we accept cars as a part of everyday life. However, it’s undeniable that drivers are taking a risk whenever they hit the road, with 1.2 million people dying in car accidents each year worldwide. There are many different factors that play a role in car accidents, and not all of them are in our control. Severe weather and vehicular failures can be difficult to predict, and even when you engage in defensive driving you may find yourself more at risk of getting into a car accident in some areas versus others. But one major factor that plays into countless car accidents is within our control. This factor is, of course, driving under the influence. The 17,985 police agencies in the United States know that drivers who get behind the wheel under the influence of drugs and alcohol are hugely problematic across the country, but some states are taking stronger steps than others to prevent further infractions.
Recently, a bill to increase the maximum punishment for hit and run drivers, while at the same time closing a DUI loophole, has recently cleared the California Assembly. The current California law states that if a DUI driver stays at the scene of crash, they can potentially face more prison time than they would if they fled the scene. There are a number of issues with this loophole, which we’ll explore below. The important thing to remember is that changes like those proposed in the bill are meant to not only punish those who are convicted of driving under the influence but further detract those who would potentially take the risk themselves. While it’s satisfying and important to punish criminals, the goal in mind is to prevent people from dying on the road.
What Is The Hit And Run Loophole?
The hit and run loophole essentially presented drivers that caused deadly crashes while under the influence an actual incentive to flee the scene of the crash. While those that are convicted of causing a deadly crash while under the influence can face up to 10 years in prison under California law, those that are charged with a deadly hit and run in the state could face up to four years in prison. Therefore, an intoxicated driver would flee the scene in order to sober up. Therefore, there would not be sufficient evidence to charge them with driving under the influence, and they would instead be charged with a hit and run and face less time. Furthermore, those convicted of a hit and run without being convicted of driving under the influence as well would not be required to attend the types of courses and treatments those convicted of DUIs would. California law further requires that those convicted of DUIs attend a three-month course, and there is often a demand for those convicted of DUIs to receive treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, even if they are serving prison sentences. Although the punishment and detraction for these crimes is crucial, it’s also important that if these drivers are ever legally on the road again, they present less risk to other drivers.
What Provoked This Bill?
As is unfortunately often the case, tragic circumstances led California lawmakers to push for the closing of this loophole. The bill is officially AB582, but is also referred to as “Gavin’s Law”. Its namesake is Gavin Gladding, a Clovis educator who was killed in a hit and run accident in 2018. Gladding’s wife, Susan Gladding, pushed for the change in order to prevent others from dying as Gavin did. A hit and run accident not only makes it more difficult for the perpetrators to be taken off the streets; it can also alter the outcome of an accident for the victim as well. While many car crash victims die instantly, others could potentially be saved if given care immediately. When a driver flees the scene of a crash, they are denying aid. Even an intoxicated driver could potentially provide life-saving care or at the very least ensure that authorities arrive at the scene faster.
Is There Life After A DUI?
Many drivers assume that a DUI will ruin their lives. However, the greater risk is losing your own life or taking the life of another. If you are charged with a DUI, it’s important to take responsibility for your mistake and show — and indeed truly feel — remorse. Understand that you were endangering not only yourself but others, and for that matter make life changes that will prevent it from happening again. You may very well end up serving jail time, but you should also take the time to receive treatment for your substance abuse issues. For some people, a DUI is the result of a single bad night; for others, it’s the result of a true addiction. At the very minimum, you should feel lucky if you are convicted of a DUI without hurting others, and should take the opportunity to improve your life and understand what you avoided. All too easily, your overindulgence could result in the loss of someone like Gavin Gladding. There is definitely life after a DUI, but it’s up to you to make the most of it.
This bill is going to make a huge difference for a lot of Californians. No longer will people be able to avoid responsibility for their actions by essentially pleading guilty for a lesser crime. This greater level of accountability will hopefully lead to fewer accidents, or at the very least fewer drivers fleeing the scene following a crash that occurred while they were under the influence.