São Paulo: drivers caught at drunk-driving will be pilloried
I decided writing besides my personal experiences also about some news related to Brasil in general (and for the sake of my Brazilian readers in English). Sure I won’t have the ability and time to write about all the important political, economical and social topics, but rather I’m going to blog about curious news from various areas which I find interesting and which will permit the reader to get a little broader image of Brasil, its culture and the way of life here. They could also cover topics about which you just don’t hear much in Germany. Of course I’m going to try to write about subjects concerning the relationship between Germany and Brazil, which is my special perspective.
Today I begin with a headline, which I accidentially read today and, interesting and questionable at the same time: Yesterday the Legislative Assembly of the São Paulo state released a law project which aims at putting drivers who are caught while driving drunk into the public pillory. The names of those who lose their driver`s license due to drunk-driving will be put on a publicly acessable list. This sanction is supposed to be deterrent as not only your personal reputation is at stake, but it will also have impact on your daily economical life. Having his name listed might put one into trouble when it comes to candidating for jobs or might result in higher insurance policies or even exclusion from car insurances for example. After all, who commited this delict acted irresponsible and put other peoples‘ lifes at stake. A lack of reponsability ultimately lets life insures, legal protection insurers (does this one even exist in English, or is this a typical German thing? –> Rechtsschutzversicherung) etc. listen up.
I think this is an interesting approach. Driving under the influence of alcohol is not tolerable and in my opinion a real no-go. Who drinks should still be delighted enough to walk, take public transport, arrange a ride with a sober friend or even pay a taxi if necessary. Of course, São Paulo´s public transport system is a mess and especially at night it stands out with absence, but nevertheless this doesn’t justify taking seat behind the wheel tipsy. Rightly, Brazil has a strict law regarding drunk-driving. For a long time I thought it was a zero limit, but in fact there is a low limit of 0,2 per mill, until which it is allowed to drive. If you are caught driving with ammounts of breathing alcohol between 0,1 and 0,29 mg/l, which is equal to 0,2 – 0,6 mg/g of alcohol in blood following German legislation, the fine is R$ 958 (=350 €), 7 points in the Brazilian Flensburg point system and 12 months of revocation of your driver´s license. Passing this limits, you commit a crime and might be punished with imprisonment. Unfortunately, as often in Brazilian legislation, the realisation of this law in daily life is weak and thus the average amount of alcohol running in the veins of many Brazilian drivers is significantly higher than zero (this shouldn´t be taken as a generalization. So please don’t be offended. I´m sure that there are also many people who don´t drink and drive :-)).
Sad climax of many aclohol related traffic accidentes recently was the case in which a cyclist was hit by a passing car (with a drunk driver in it) in a way that his arm was cut off. Instead of stopping and helping the victim the driver hit the road and threw the limb into a nearby ditch. Later he delivered himself at the police, regretting his act. Another example was an adolescent skater who was run over and died. These might be extrem examples, but accidents under the influence of alcohol occur frequently and are a serious problem (as it is also the case in Germany). Apparently, the fines are not deterrent enough or the expected value = „chance of being caught“ * „fine“ is not high enough respectively. And even if you lose your license, this doesn’t hinder some people from driving anyways, due to the weak traffic control. Consequently I think that alternative additional fines, raising the factor „fine“ in the equation above, are an interesting option to force soberness on the road. Risking to pay your life long higher rates for insurances and the risk of unemployement are more sustainable fines than a one-time payment, besides the social pressure owing to the appearence of your name on a black-list. On the other hand it is primarily necessary to enforce the existing law and to conduct more frequent traffic controls (raising the factor „chance of being caught“). To what extent a public stigmatisation of infringers is legitimate is another question. I think there is not the risk of the infringers suffering self-administred justice from their neighbours as it might be the case when publishing the names of sexual offenders etc., but I won’t try to judge this point. Feel free to give me your comments on it: what is your opinion about this?