The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Opinion

March 11, 2014

Editorial: Bill keeps right people on road, wrong people off

There are certain offenses for which the suspension of a driver’s license makes sense, drunken driving chief among them.

There are others, however, for which suspension of driving privileges seems unreasonable and counterproductive – namely the dozens of non-traffic related crimes such as unpaid child support that currently result in an automatic suspension.

More than a half-million of Indiana’s 5 million drivers have had their licenses suspended. Without any way to monitor compliance, most keep driving, preferring to chance getting caught than to lose a job because they couldn’t get to work. And many do get caught – so many that driving with a suspended license is the most common charged offense in the state. Violators face mounting, often to the point of unpayable, fines for each offense.

A bill awaiting Gov. Mike Pence’s signature will unburden thousands of Indiana drivers while making it easier to monitor those who face suspension for driving-related offenses. It eliminates the automatic license suspension penalty for most non-traffic offenses and gives judges more leeway in how the restriction is used. The bill also created a “special use” license that employs technology to monitor when drivers get behind the wheel. It does not take authority away from judges to suspend the licenses of drivers who might be a danger on the road.

Removing these automatic suspensions is the right move for Indiana, where public transportation and jobs are equally hard to come by. Such penalties are an unfair burden on those who live in rural communities where taking the bus or a taxi just isn’t an option. They also create a mountain of fines those living in poverty have little hope of ever paying, giving them even less hope of ever driving legally again.

It’s also important to keep those who are truly dangerous and have a history of traffic violations from having unrestricted access to the roads. Giving judges the power to order violators to use ignition-interlock devices that test for sobriety and track drivers’ movements goes far in protecting everyone else on the road.

In summary Suspension of driving privileges seems unreasonable and counterproductive for non-traffic related offenses.

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