When we consider a social approach to the law, we would distinguish two main groups of people. The first one is the group of people whose mindsets simply are not prone to break the law. This kind of mindset allows them always to choose behaviour that is socially approved, accepted, and recognised as lawful.
They don’t need the Damocles sword over their heads to be feared as if they do something wrong, they can be punished by the abiding law. They just do right things and make correct lawful decisions.
They do not drive when drunk, they do not use they phones whilst driving either to make a call or to text.
There is another group of people and, unfortunately, they are in a vast majority, these are the people who don’t consider the law as the set of rules they should obey or respect. Their mindsets lead them to an assumption that the law is a matter they must disregard as this is something that tends to restrict their freedom in doing what they want to do.
It is not that they believe they are above the law but that obeying the law is a stupid thing.
I’m not a lawyer, I am a heuristic specialist working with people from different social and professional backgrounds and helping them to discover patterns that lead them or their clients to make specific decisions. I have been surrounded by legal professionals and their clients for many years. I go to prisons, I take part in criminal cases in the courts, I attend the probation offices. I talk to defendants, prisoners, and victims.
I am observing a recent legal discussion on social media, which spins different opinions about a possible, conclusive punishment for driving and drinking.
There are two outstanding barristers I follow to learn from them about subtle legal solutions. They are extremely experienced professionals and their career paths (long from here to the Moon) are paved with the criminal cases they have proceeded in. The Secret Barrister and Mr Matthew Scott believe that longer sentences for this crime [drinking, texting, and calling when driving] will not solve the problem.
I couldn’t agree more; they are right, this is a very proved solution that to prevent is better than to execute the treatment. However, in my opinion, there is this one factor that is still missing in the discussion.
Mr Scott writes in his recent article that:
Making the sentence [Mandatory life sentences] available for dangerous drivers who kill may well be popular, many foolish ideas are, but it is still wrong….They [drivers-killers] may be reckless, stupid or thoughtless; they may be upstanding citizens or career criminals with a contempt for human life. They may drive whilst drunk, or tired or while tweeting or texting. They may be doddery old ladies who fall asleep at the wheel, or daredevil car thieves who enjoy being chased at high speed. But they are not murderers and nor, because they lack the intention to kill, should they be regarded as exceptionally wicked.
He suggests that sending more people to prisons isn’t the solution we can afford as our prisons are already overloaded. He argues that:
Those who did it [careless driving] learnt that they will almost certainly lose their licences if they get caught.
Mr Scott’s approach to the problem is absolutely correct since longer sentences are:
a/against the economy
b/may ruin people’s lives
However, I can almost hear now some of you asking:
Ok, but what when a driver killed my wife (my child, my mother, my friend)? Should I be bothered with his/her life been destroyed?
I wouldn’t ever dare to comment on your tragic experience, but if those of you who have suffered from a loss of your relative killed by a drunk driver, had a chance to ask the driver what would stop him/her driving when drunk, I am sure that you would ask him/her this question.
What makes people obey the law? Surely, it is a fear of potential punishment. What kind of punishment would make the second, fore mentioned group prone to obey the law?
I decided to go to the best source for the answer. I asked few people who were convicted of drinking and driving:
Q.: What would make you respect the law and not to drive when drunk?
A.: At least 5 years in prison [7 years, life ban for driving, no possibiliy to serve a half of the sentence] for doing that.
The answers came from the people who have broken the law and these were the answers that came immediately to their minds as the solution to the problems they have caused. The second question I asked was:
Q.: Why did you drive when drunk?
A.: Because I was stupid.
Q.: What would you make not being stupid?
A.: I must have feared something that much that it would have stopped me from doing it.
The Secret Barrister’s opinion is that by enforcing ‘catch’ techniques + upgrading police forces as to pick up the people who text and drive or drive when drunk and to punish them by e.g. disqualifying them from driving for a long time, we would decrease the problem.
He is absolutely right, however, this solution requires more money invested in police forces, law enforcement techniques, and equipment. As we all know, it seems rather unrealistic according to our today’s economy. Yes, we can wait till the economy improves…
There is a sad statistic that proves that the poorer country, the higher crime.
There is the saddest truth that says that when a poor economy determines a choice of rules to execute the law, there is nothing left that would promote respecting the law among those who tend to commit a crime. They simply know that they are uncatchable and that current punishment is something they don’t take seriously.
One may say that using fear to prevent people from committing a crime is not right. That’s fine, however, what to say if the people who don’t obey the law say that the fear of much higher punishment will be the right tool to make them obey the law?
These people, the drivers-killers are the best source for the answers when establishing solutions to make our streets and roads safer because they make our roads unsafe for others.
Is the law for people who are victims and yearn for justice or is the law for people who commit a crime and must be punished? Both, of course.
How to find a golden mean? Impossible? I don’t know.
Nevertheless, creating the law that works should be done in cooperation with different professionals and omitting voices of those who were “stupid to commit a crime” may drive to a dangerous result. Without considering all the factors we will not achieve the positive outcome. We will be stuck with anger for the law that does not work.
We cannot create effective and conclusive law without bearing in mind that the effect of our creation has to comply with mental capability of people who don’t think that that should obey the law. Without taking in consideration voices and opinions of people who drove when drunk, text or call when driving, we are simply excluding their opinions about the solution that should work for them.
Many of you may disagree with me and I appreciate that but then I would ask you: why don’t you do your own survey and ask those who drive when drunk:
What, in their opinions, would stop them doing that?