Here in the United States, driving is looked on as something of a right. Although police and driver’s ed instructors will tell you about how your license is a privilege, the case of Dennis Drue teaches us that privilege can be heavily dependent on your ability to simply pay off fines.
There is, of course, the “points” system. The state DMV will suspend your license if you rack up 11 points within an 18-month period. Most violations earn you three points, so one would have to get caught four times in that time to have a license pulled — that is, if you don’t take a point reduction course, which can be done over the Internet these days.
This is a tricky topic because in today’s day and age, most people must drive as a matter of living a happy and efficient life. And as even a good driver knows, it’s simply impossible to not make a mistake now and then. Even under today’s rules, that can quickly land you in an expensive and inconvenient position.
But in our car-centric world, with daily bumper-to-bumper congestion on roads like I-90 and the Northway, when distances are measured in the number of minutes you’ll be behind the wheel, when we do so much driving that looking at the road seems an offensive distraction from one’s cell phone, it can be easy to forget getting on the road means being in direct control of a multi-ton death machine. At least, until that fact is driven home by a crushing tragedy.
Let’s not let this tragedy go unnoticed. It is clear this state — this society — needs better way to keep the most destructive and dangerous off of our roads. Or at the very least, to provide a sufficient incentive or deterrent to keep everyone behaving in a civil manner. This is not a pipe dream. Last year, for instance, legislation kicked in here in New York that keeps drivers with five or more alcohol- or drug-related driving convictions from ever getting their license back.
Perhaps it’s time to apply that thinking to other areas.