Why can't we get more serious about habitual negligent drivers?

As a matter of logic, you are correct–just because something can be taken away under certain circumstances does not mean that it isn’t a right.

But if you are claiming by implication that driving is a right, perhaps you could point us to the place in the constitution that details this right for us.

Of course, the fact that it’s not in the US constitution does not necessarily end the matter. After all, the constitution itself says that things not listed therein are left to the states. In this case, you would have to show us where a state (any state) has determined that a driving license is a right. If Rick’s quote from California is any indication of the nationwide trend, i think you’ll be hard pressed.

Well, I don’t think the state (especially the DMV) is the arbiter of what is or is not a right. If the First Amendment were repealed, freedom of speech would still be a right, just not one recognized by the government. I’m speaking philosophically here, not legally.

You don’t need a license to exercise free speech, but you need to pass an aptitude test (a very lax one if you ask me) in order to be allowed to drive. That’s what makes driving a privilege. Everyone is allowed to speak, but not everyone is allowed to drive.

I just want to say that I do completely understand where folks are coming from here.

But, I have a really hard time with the idea that a person who has done no harm to anyone could have his or her only way to make a living/get to the store to buy food/basically live a normal life removed by the government (ignoring also any family who may or may not be dependant on said driver). I understand that folks are saying it is a privilege, but I’m saying it is not a privilege to have the ability to do the afore-mentioned things. And just because someone is driving ‘dangerously’ (however one defines that) doesn’t seem to me to be clear cause to cause so much disruption and potential financial fallout for the person and his/her family.

Knowing how most of America is laid out, it is hard for me to take anyone seriously who feels that it is worth indicating that driving is a privilege and not a right. I am further unmoved by the idea that the people are somehow responsible for what they’ve done–of course they are. But they are also responsible for getting to work, and if they can do that by driving without a license, it seems to be fairly obvious human nature to do so.

Privilige, right… what’s the diff? If you have access to a knife, you’ll stab at an attacker. If you have good legs, you run from danger. If you need money, you’ll drive to work. We’ve built almost the entire country, with the exception of some urban centers which have been modified, around automobiles, and then gasp in amazement or righteous indignity when people drive around unlicensed or unregistered?

Come on. Locks, and in this case licenses, keep honest people honest. But let’s not lose sight of what it means for a huge portion of the population to be without a vehicle. And let’s not dismiss the notion that people will do all sorts of illegal things in order to get what they want. Any law, set of laws, or judgment based on people breaking those laws, that acts against that is hopeless idealism.

Not that there’s anything wrong with hopeless idealism particularly. Quite fond of it myself. But the question on the table seems to be, “Can’t we get more serious?” Yes, we can attempt to solve the problem rather than punish more people.

I am particularly fond of this “car arrest” cum GPS idea. That has some actual potential. Quite analogous to the breathylizers installed on cars, only a tad more foolproof and a lot more enforceable. Better/any public transportation might help by offering alternatives (it surely would help me were I in such a position), but this is only applicable in limited areas.

Since we’ve breached some lofty ideals, a New World Order ™ solution might deal with electronically verified licenses hooked into ignition systems. The technology exists, in principle, to make these secure and private. Long term, pie-in-the-sky, I know, but I will stop at nothing to think of a good way to protect ri–er, priviliges as important as driving. If it is criminal to drive, only criminals will… wait, wrong argument.

Some responses.

Well, taking these two together, one might begin to see a kind of, “Well, yeah, isn’t that the problem?” kind of thing.

Well, let’s take Massachusetts as an example. Failure to register a vehicle is a $100 on the first offense (and your car will be towed unless it is in a private drive AFAIK), and $1000 on the second offense. I don’t know about you, but I think that most people would consider a $1000 fine prohibitive. All unlicensed and suspended license driving citations are criminal citations, which can include prison terms.

Short of killing someone with your car, it is hard to see that a victimless crime like unlicensed operation should carry much stiffer penalties, IMO, though I could see that such considerations might increase fines and/or jail time if other violations (vehicular manslaughter, accidents, etc) occur while unlicensed.

I guess I wonder what you really think the punishment should be for this.

The article in the OP doesn’t seem to specify exactly what the driver’s previous offenses were. In my recent own case (where my car was towed), I had an unpaid ticket (not paying a meter, whoops), which meant I couldn’t renew my registration until cleared, which is what led to the towing. Obviously all my fault, no contest, I plead guilty. But I’ve had no accidents (that were my fault) in my 13 years on the road, and only one speeding ticket from 3AM on a highway when I was 20. I am hardly a hazardous driver, just an irresponsible schlep. As MA doesn’t recognize any distinction between “unregistered motor vehicle” and “expired registration”, an article about me could paint quite a devestating picture. Imagine a pedestrian came out from behind an SUV quicker than I could react…

No question there are some seriously fucked up individuals on the road. I can’t believe how many times some drunk gets pulled over on COPS, only to have the officers find out the license is suspended. I swear I saw an episode where the car was stolen, too, but maybe I’m exaggerating.

I don’t think harsher penalties are really the answer here. But apart from wishful thinking, I don’t think I know what is.

Not everyone is allowed to vote or own a gun.

What if I get a gun and fire it off randomly? As long as I don’t hit anyone, why should I be subject to anything more than the fines for discharging a weapon in city limits? I haven’t done anyone any harm…yet.

I had a coworker who was driving drunk, got into an accident and killed his passenger. He was a nice guy, but the screwed up. He went to prison and was on probation. He had to spend like 2 hours or so on public transit just to get to work because he had no license. Finally he got a work license so he could drive to and from work only. We make pharmacuticals 6 days a week, so we put him down for pretty large hours. Yet we had to come in one Saturday and I picked him up, he couldn’t and wouldn’t drive. And he never complained, he knew he deserved it. If you knowingly keep violating the law, you deserve to get punished and keep the rest of us safe from you, you obviously don’t care enough about anyone but yourself.

Hell, last year I got my second speeding ticket in a year. If I got a third, I’d have lost my license. So you know what? I stopped speeding.

I never said there was an easy solution. I’m conflicted about the whole thing myself. It’s just that when you see something like what i described in the OP it’s hard not to feel that something needs to be changed. Like you, i think that the whole “car arrest” / GPS idea is a pretty good one.

The problem, i guess, is that unlicensed operation is only a “victimless crime” until you kill someone, and then there comes into play a sort of retroactive scenario by which your suspended license makes you more criminally liable for the person’s death than you might otherwise have been if you were driving on a proper license.

You say that we don’t know the offender’s (in the OP) specific previous offenses. But you then go on to describe your own unpaid parking tickets. Even if we don’t know exactly what the guy did, however, we do know that he had previously pleaded guilty to “negligent driving.” This, i am willing to bet, was something more serious than an unpaid parking ticket.

I guess i’d be happy with a system whereby the penalty for driving on a suspended or revoked license was somehow tied to the reason for which the license was taken in the first place. For example, if your license had been suspended for unpaid parking tickets, and you were caught driving, then perhaps a reasonable punishment might be a fine and/or some further suspension. But if your license has been suspended for drunk driving or habitually dangerous driving or other practices likely to cause an accident, then the penalty could be commensurately harsher.

My final solution, which i’m about to outline, is really no solution at all, because it is little more than an attempt to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. I think that, if someone does drive on a suspended or revoked license, and does kill someone through an act of dangerous driving, then the punishment for that should reflect the foreknowledge with which the person flouted the law. I’m not a lawyer, so i don’t know how much provision there is in the statutes for this already. I hope there is some.

A driving license is not a matter of being honest, it is a matter of being able. Being able to use a car (a heavy piece of machinery) with safety .

No, I’m not fond of this. I believe licenses should be revoked completely in case the driver has shown that he is incapable to drive safely. If someone is driving from home to work or vice versa, that doesn’t make him a safer driver. (It would be good though in case the license was revoked for some technical offense)

And you can’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Does this make free speech a privilege?

Of course not. I’m not the one saying that any of these things are mere privileges. What I’m saying is that just as the restrictions on free speech, voting, and owning a gun don’t stop those from being rights, the restrictions on driving don’t stop it from being a right either.

Do you think that piloting an airplane is a right too?

Funny, I don’t recall anything in the Constitution about driving.

Interesting question.

I’m tempted to say yes. Flying a plane on one’s private property is certainly a right, and flying a plane seems analogous to driving a car at first.

There is a difference, though: There’s a substitute for flying a plane, at least domestically. If I’m not allowed to pilot a plane to Seattle, I can drive there instead. But if I’m not allowed to drive there, I’m out of luck. I can’t walk 270 miles to Seattle; I can’t even walk to work.

Piloting a plane is just not essential in the way that driving is. So my answer is no.

Amendment IX. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

But you can take a bus to work. Or a train. Or a cab. Or get a lift from a friend. Or get another job. Or move closer to the job you have.

I absolutely do. Until you outline how the government is legally allowed to curtail my ability to acquire a pilot’s license, I will continue to believe in the inalienable right to pursue happiness.

You have a right to vote, but you still must register before you can do so. See how that works?

I think the OP is mostly hogwash. I carefully read the multiple infractions the guy had, and only one of them was a moving violation – an improper turn. (Let me guess…he made an illegal U-turn one time he got lost and a cop happened to see him.)

If you want to say that we need to crack down on multiple moving violations, then I’m all for it. But the DMV will suspend your license for friggin’ anything.

Let’s say a guy let his license expire, let his registration expire, and let his emissions expire, once each, 3 years apart each time. He’s got multiple infractions. Should he be penalized more? I would say no. He never endangered anyone. (Expired insurance would be completely different.)

Moving violations is the key. And even many of those are trumped up and never posed a danger to anyone. My friend got a $250 ticket for going the pace of traffic in the right lane approaching an exit he was getting off. That just ain’t right.

The current system is damn near perfect. Individual policemen are able to make judgements on how severe each suspension is when they pull you over, because they get a little computer readout detailing the reason. I once was pulled over a mile from my house when I had a suspended license from an out of state ticket I’d forgotten about. He told me that it was suspended, why, and to go straight home and fix it asap. I thanked him and did just that. What’s the problem?

…and may still have misunderstood. Was the improper turn the same infraction as the negligent driving? (For some reason I equated 2002 and last year.)

But doesn’t this contradict an earlier position you took?

You said that, in defining “rights,” you were taking a philosophical rather than a legal position. That’s completely reasonable. Rights are an important philosophical issue.

But if you believe, philosophically, that something is a right, then surely whether or not that thing has a substitute has no bearing on the matter. By your logic, and following on from spooje’s point, if an alternative method of transport is available, then driving is not a right.

Let’s take your own example. If you’re not allowed to drive to Seattle, why can’t you take a plane or a train or a Greyhound bus to get there? By your own logic, the existence of alternatives negates your right to drive.

The idea that rights are dependent upon such mundane practical considerations seems to me to be a rather problematic way of defining them.

You’re right about the 9th amendment, and i actually tend to agree with erislover on this issue. Even though i maintain that driving is a privilege, the question is actually not so much whether driving is a right or a privilege; the issue is more about what circumstances justify having that right/privilege taken away. I maintain that, whether you want to call it a right or a privilege, there are occasions when it is justifiable to stop someone from driving.

Sure, I suppose so. And if the government made it illegal to say “Down with Bush”, I could just say “Down with Kerry” instead. But it wouldn’t be the same.

Access to buses, trains, and taxis depends on geographical flukes. I can’t take a bus home from work, because the bus doesn’t come anywhere near my office by the time I get off work. I could call for a taxi, but there are places not too far from here where there’s no cab service. Relying on lifts from a friend doesn’t cut it, because friends aren’t reliable transportation services, especially when their ability to drive is a “privilege” just like mine.

Can you not see a legitimate government concern in restricting licensing?

Put it this way. Does the right to do something mean having the ability to do something? Can you seea legimate government interest in not allowing people with inadequate flying skills to attempt to fly airplanes?

It might. I’m still not sure about that answer… I’ll have to put some more thought into this.

Well, at least one of those has to be a right. If I don’t have the right to drive my car, the bus driver doesn’t have the right to drive his bus, the pilot doesn’t have the right to fly his plane, and the engineer doesn’t have the right to drive his train, then I have no way to get where I’m going.

I agree. I’m getting less and less sure about that answer as I write this. :wink:

One important test, I think, is this: If something is a right, then the government can’t legitimately strip it away from the entire population. The President, or Congress, or whoever cannot say “Sorry folks, something big just happened and we’re revoking freedom of speech and freedom from unreasonable search/seizure while we sort this out.” Rights outweigh the inconveniences of government.

At first, it seemed clear to me that flying a plane could not be a right because of that. For a few days in 2001, all planes were grounded, and that seems perfectly legitimate to me.

But now that I think about it… IMO it is legitimate to suspend rights in the face of immediate danger. And I believe there’s a strong case that grounding all planes in September 2001 was necessary to assess and prevent an immediate danger.

Indeed. The practical implications of something being a “right” instead of a “privilege” are more important than the word itself.