DUI drivers forced to buy ‘Scarlet Letter’ license plates

Those who drive through the glass window of CNN Center will be allowed to drive around with no license plates at all. (AJC file photo)

Those who drive through the glass window of CNN Center will be allowed to drive around with no license plates at all. (AJC file photo)

All three regular readers of this column know I usually write about breaking news, but today some rare happened — I ran across something I didn’t know.

In Ohio, drivers convicted of DUI are issued “Scarlet Letter” license plates. The tags are bright yellow with red letters, just like a jaundiced adulterer’s forehead.

My initial thought was that it is unfair to keep punishing those who have paid their fine and/or done the time, but then I wondered if this public shaming tactic improved highway safety, which should be the goal of the law.

Or, does the bright yellow tag simply give police officers a motive to conduct a traffic stop.

Georgia has a similar law, enacted in 2013 I believe, but the law specifies numbers, not colors — which makes it less likely anyone other than a police officer would know about the prior conviction. I don’t know if anyone actually drives around with specialized tags in Georgia, but I will try to find out so we can all start looking for those numbers at family reunions.

In my limited research, which in the past has trended towards “wrong,” it seems Ohio drivers, which began using the yellow tags in 2004, are just as likely to die in a DUI crash as many other states.

Here are some quick comparisons between Ohio and Georgia using 2013 data:

Ohio:

2.3 annual DUI fatalities per 100,000 residents

65.3% of fatalities included a driver over 0.15% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

72.7% of fatalities were by repeat DUI offenders

In the last 10 years, the DUI fatality rate has dropped 31.5%

Georgia:

3 annual DUI fatalities per 100,000 residents

62.6% of fatalities included a driver over 0.15% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

62.5% of fatalities were by repeat DUI offenders

In the last 10 years, the DUI fatality rate has dropped 34.9%

Half-baked analysis: It seems that Georgia had more DUI fatalities per capita in 2013, but has done a better job at reducing DUIs and stopping repeat offenders. If we look at 2012 data, Ohio had 24% more DUI deaths than Georgia.

If you look at DUI arrests that do not include fatalities, Ohio ranks among the highest in the nation (14th). Once again, perhaps the bright yellow tag is a bit like profiling and increases DUI arrests?

Is it fair to make drivers convicted of DUI purchase a bright yellow tag? I imagine it would be more difficult to get a job and move on with life if you are continually and publicly shamed.

Should Georgia start using yellow tags? Should naked drivers going the wrong way be forced to put plates on the front of their car?

If it makes sense for DUIs, why not make convicted child molesters drive around with bright red tags?

Marijuana dealers could drive around with green tags that end with the numerals 420!

We may never see a Confederate flag on a license plate again.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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