When comparing Michigan to other states in the USA, we get a lot of favorable results (unless you’re talking about child welfare, the state of the roads or auto insurance, that is!) From a tourism, beer, food, coastline, and wine standpoint, Michigan has so much to boast about. Just ask Thrillist. They ranked us the top of the list in their best vs. worst states comparison. But when it comes to the punishment of drunk drivers, how does Michigan compare to other states?
Interestingly, Michigan is ranked as one of the more lenient states when it comes to punishment of convicted intoxicated drivers. According to a recent study conducted by Wallethub, which compared states based on how strict or how lenient they were when it comes to the penalties for DUIs.
While we certainly weren’t’ the most lenient state (a dubious honor that goes to South Dakota), we did come in at number 43, which puts Michigan squarely in the category of “lenient” with drunk drivers. What exactly makes us a lenient state when it comes to drunk driving, you may wonder? After all, many people who have faced drunk driving convictions here in Michigan didn’t feel that the laws were lenient. So what earned us a rank of 43?
The factors used to rank this were fifteen specific points that were taken into account for every state. These factors included minimum jail times, how long a DUI conviction stayed on your record, and when a DUI is automatically considered a felony. Also taken into account were issues like whether or not additional penalties were added for high BACs, and if Ignition Interlock devices were mandatory after a conviction or not.
Although it may seem that leniency in general is something to strive for, in this case the point was not to celebrate the states that were lenient as much as it was to draw attention to the difference between the states’ approach to punishing drunk drivers. So leniency probably isn’t something that the folks at Wallethub were patting us on the back for.
Despite the fact that Michigan’s drunk driving laws seem to have ranked us as one of the less proactive states, one thing we have learned is that prohibiting something doesn’t necessarily translate into a reduction of that prohibited item. The war on drugs being a classic example of how poorly legislation can solve a problem. Throwing more and more laws at an issue won’t make it go away. We certainly learned that during Prohibition.
The area where Michigan does seem to have had some success with regard to the issue of drunk driving is with our nationally renown sobriety courts. Courts that offer convicted individuals a chance to redeem themselves, a chance to get their lives back through supported sobriety, is where the real difference will show. Throwing people in prison for making bad decisions while coping with a substance abuse issue won’t solve drunk driving. Helping people get back on their feet and overcome their addictions will. On this front, our great state excels.