Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Let some drunk drivers keep licences

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-02-25

While I’m for strong action against drunk drivers, but we might be better off if those caught by booze-buses are allowed to continue driving under certain circumstances.

Obviously, if someone has been injured, the full force of existing law should be applied.

However, if we can be assured that someone will not be taking alcohol, and other usual penalties are applied, then no harm is done by letting them keep their licence, while allowing society to avoid social costs, including the need for social welfare if the offender’s income depends on driving.

There is one such method of assurance, and there may be others.

When metabolizing alcohol, one step creates a molecule of acetaldehyde, a particularly noxious chemical reeking of rotting fish and a major cause of hangover symptoms, for every molecule of alcohol.

Disulfiram, sometimes called "antabuse", blocks the enzyme (aldehyde dehydrogenase) that converts acetaldehyde into the harmless acetic acide.

Thus, with disulfiram in your system, drinking any alcohol leads to an almost immediate hangover and severe vomiting.  Moderate to large amounts of alcohol will kill you.

Used sometimes for treatment of alcoholics, and lasting in the bloodstream for up to a couple of weeks, society can be confident that anyone taking disulfiram in front of a policeman will not be taking any alcohol (or incidentally, cocaine-like substances and some opioids) so they will not be driving under the influence of alcohol.

Of course, there are some people who cannot tolerate disulfiram, and there are nasty interactions with some other drugs like anti-depressants, so not everyone can choose to keep their licence by undergoing disulfiram therapy.

Another requirement would be for disulfiram-takers to wear one of those medical pendants or wristbands with details of their dosages, so if unconcious in hospital, doctors will not administer other drugs that interact badly with disulfiram.

There’s also another possibility.  Towards the end of the period that a person has to take disulfiram (which should be longer than the period they’d have lost their licence), I’d recommend that, under medical supervision, the offender is given small doses of alcohol, often enough so that they become conditioned away from using alcohol again.


2 Responses to “Let some drunk drivers keep licences”

  1. geoff said

    Of course there is also this alternative:

    Link to

  2. Dave Bath said

    Good point Geoff, but that’s one of the penalities APART from loss of licence. I wasn’t precluding those.

    I’ll write more later in a separate post that the level of a drug is not the problem, but the competence to drive. This can be tested (and pick up other drugs, licit or illicit, as well as medical conditions) by assessing hand-eye co-ordination and reaction time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: