Finally beat the hangover? Congratulations. In a few days, you and everybody else in your circle will forget about it (except for those tagged Facebook photos of you at the party, of course. Those will outlive you.).
But if you are stupid enough to get behind the wheel on Prince Edward Island after a few belts this year, well, Transportation Minister Robert Vessey wants to make sure everyone remembers it. For a good long time.
Vessey has floated the idea of mandating distinctive license plates for convicted repeat drunk drivers. It would be a first for Canada, but the idea isn’t original. Several U.S. states already use the so-called “Whiskey Plates.” Ohio, for instance, handed 6,527 drunk drivers vivid red and yellow plates last year (see above).
Nor is the idea of public shaming all that novel. Nathaniel Hawthorne used it effectively in The Scarlett Letter, fiction written way back in the late 1840s.
Now, maybe Vessey got a copy of the classic for Christmas, or maybe he thinks more letters on PEI license plates will help kids learn the alphabet. Whatever the reasoning, it is badly flawed.
Vessey argues that distinctive plates could make it easier for police and other drivers to potentially identify repeat drunk drivers. The problem, though, is that those folks who deserve the label may not always be the ones behind the wheel. A teetotalling grandmother could be off to the golf course — the turn signal blinking the whole way – while that sot son of hers is at home sleeping another one off.
Besides, as anyone who has ever had a few too many can tell you, the fear of public humiliation is rarely a deterrent when the booze flows. (See: Facebook photos, above.).
And as for the embarrassment of driving around with the equivalent of a scarlett A on your car? Well, it may leave people red-faced, but it won’t stop them from tying one on and driving with a red nose.
Vessey is rightly concerned about the problem – P.E.I. convicts some 300 people annually for impaired driving, a per capita rate nearly double the national average – but he is literally out on an island with this “solution.” Not even Mothers Against Drunk Drivers sees much merit in it.
Better he stick with the law he already has in place, and one that MADD advocates: first-time drunk drivers must install an ignition interlock device that gives them a breathalyzer-type test before the car can be started.
As for the Whiskey Plates? Well, maybe Vessey could change them to Vodka Plates, saluting the versatility of Spud Island’s most famous export, which can be found not just on the dinner table but also on liquor store shelves (and in backyard stills). Then sell ‘em in souvenir shops.
The resulting revenue could pay for a good party – including aspirin and taxis for everyone attending.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons