An Illinois legislator has introduced a proposal that would make wrong-way driving an aggravating factor in determining sentences for DUI offenders.
Wrong way DUIs don’t occur all that frequently in Illinois, but when they do, they can easily be deadly. State data suggests that wrong way impaired drivers have caused more than 50 deaths and more than 300 injuries over the past decade.
Upon hearing about the proposal, the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving applauded the move, saying “the punishment doesn’t fit the crime for DUIs.”
Wrong Way DUI Proposal
The proposal, introduced by Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside would mean a wrong way DUI driver could be charged with an aggravated DUI even if no other aggravating factors are present. Under the current law, anyone convicted of an aggravated DUI must serve at least 85 percent of the minimum sentence. This means if a person commits a wrong way DUI that results in a potential 90-day sentence, the person would be forced to spend at least 77 days in jail.
In theory it makes sense to punish drivers that put other drivers in extreme danger by driving in the wrong direction, but others wonder if the proposal is even necessary. Someone with an extremely elevated BAC going in the wrong direction and injuring a person is no more at fault than a drunk driver who runs a stop sign and injures another driver, so why is one at-fault drunk being targeted more than others?
It will be interesting to see if this proposal gains any traction as it makes its way through legislature, but it doesn’t seem like it will really do anything to deter wrong way drunk drivers. No drunk driver makes the conscious choice to drive the wrong way down the street, and none of them are going to be deterred from getting behind the wheel because they fear stiffer punishments for driving the wrong way down the road. In-road sensors, large flashing signs and video cameras have all been shown to be more effective at curbing the issue of wrong way DUIs and traffic accidents, so it may be wise for Illinois to consider some alternative proposals.
We all want to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road and traffic accidents, but will this legislation actually do anything to move us closer to that goal? We don’t think so.