Column: Do harsh driving penalties fit the crimes?



Back in 1990, when the nation was still deep into the “war on drugs,” Congress passed a law that compelled states to suspend the driver’s licenses of all convicted drug offenders or risk losing part of their federal highway funds.

States could opt out only if their legislature and governor went on the record opposing the law.

At the time, it was seen as a major public policy decision that, in essence, said this: There is a clear societal interest in keeping people off the road who’ve committed a crime, even if that crime has nothing to do with a person’s ability to drive safely.

In 1996, Congress came back again with the same remedy for “deadbeat” parents. The federal welfare-reform bill made all states grant the courts or government agencies the power to suspend or restrict a driver’s license for someone overdue on their child support payments.

 

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