Crime and Justice: Lack of Enforcement – Lack of Deterrence?

     During a recent trip to my parents’ house thirty miles down the highway, I bore witness to some things that have me thinking. You see, in California it’s the law that, in inclement weather conditions, vehicles must have their headlights on when being driven. In the thirty miles between towns, we must have seen over 50 vehicles without their headlights on. It struck me that this would be a virtual “goldmine” for the CHP, what with our state being on the precipice of bankruptcy. All it would take is six patrol units parked in the median, three covering the northbound and three southbound, and then let the ticketing begin!

     This is just the tip of the iceberg. Another area of concern, so much so that the NHTSA published a recommendation report a few years back on the topic, is distracted driving and the use of cellular devices while driving. A few years ago, California passed a law that makes it illegal to drive and use a cell phone at the same time. Although this law has been in place for a while, it is still commonplace to see drivers rolling down the road, with a cell phone held to their ear or the driver texting while on the road. I have personally seen several of these drive right by a police officer, yet not get stopped. Maybe that’s why people still engage in this dangerous behavior; there’s little to no enforcement going on.

Three strikes, and she's out.

    In mid-October of this year, 24-year-old Perla Vazquez of Clovis, California was involved in a DUI fatality collision. It seems that Ms. Vazquez had gone out for a night of fun with friends, gotten plastered and then got behind the wheel of her Infinity. Along the way, she rear-ended a Jeep Wrangler, driven by 54-year-old Frank Winslow, and forced it off of the roadway and down an embankment. Mr. Winslow was partially ejected from his Jeep, and was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency medical personnel. While the airbags in Ms. Vazquez’s vehicle deployed upon impact, she continued to drive down the road, and only came to a stop upon being pulled over by an off-duty police officer from Madera. Perla Vazquez was so blitzed that night, that she fell asleep in the back of the patrol car moments after being arrested. Subsequently, it was discovered that Ms. Vazquez has two prior DUI convictions, and had not been paying her fines or attending mandatory alcohol offender classes.(1)

     (SOAPBOX=ALREADY ON) Perhaps if the system weren’t so damned broken, Frank Winslow would still be alive. Perhaps upon her failure to “pay the piper,” Perla Vazquez should have been put in jail instead of being allowed to retain her freedom to go out and drive while drunk yet again, this time taking the life of a father and a husband.

     My fine young readers, our laws need to be toughened up. Not only do they need to be toughened, but enforcement needs to be stressed. Our policing agencies need to ticket more distracted drivers, our courts need to keep better tabs on failures to repair like Perla Vazquez. In most cases, it’s a win-win. It keeps us safer, and gets the message across that there are indeed laws, and we all need to abide by them. In addition, the revenue garnered by the state from enforcement can be used to balance the stinkin’ budget!

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