Seems like PSA central around here these days, eh? First no texting and driving, now no drinking and driving!
As to the legal issues surrounding these, I can’t say I am for legally banning either activity (texting or drinking while driving) outright (of course, either can and may be morally abhorrent). As I have mentioned on SNV before, these behaviors add a risk, not a certainty – and where risk exists, humans make very large errors in calculation regularly. One such error is assuming that a half-blind old lady who has been driving for years presents less risk to bystanders or herself than someone who has had a few beers or is texting. There is simply no way to be omniscient enough to know if the risks of one driver under circumstances X, Y, and Z are qualitatively greater than another driver under circumstances A, B, C. Easy enough to understand, I think…
Another thought to ponder about the video above is the issue of punishment theory. There are generally thought to be four types of punishment under classical punishment theory: Rehabilitation (generally includes Restoration), Retribution, Deterrence, Incapacitation. Of the four, I believe only two to be moral.
Deterrence, or the idea that some should be punished to deter the behavior of others, isn’t concerned with the act or individual who committed the act. And though making an example of someone may be “for the greater good of society,” it requires that the punishment on the person be in excess of the singular crime. If punitive measures are to be considered an evil in themselves (that may be used within the principle of Double Effect, but not otherwise), this would be a very good example of an end justifying a means, making it inappropriate. Many studies debate whether this form of punishment actually has the effects on society desired, but the outcome has little to do with the fact that aiming at a society’s goals by using a human being as a means is wrong. When punishment is dealt, the purpose must involve the respect for the human dignity of the actor involved.
Retribution is the revenge lite, in which a perpetrator of some bad action of other is given his karma or just desserts. This theory is concerned only with exacting pain on the perp, such that the pain originally caused is experienced in some manner or other by the perp. This theory seems to be the most morally atrocious, and I would associate it most readily with what a young child can envision. Lex talionis is very easy to understand, and even easier to wish in the heat of the pain of a loved one. Disregarding what is just and best for all parties involved, those in favor of retribution wish to create pain, regardless of the mindset of the perp. But not only is the visceral reaction rudimentary and a hindbrain response, retribution requires omniscience to be moral. In other words, since someone’s culpability for an action must include a state of mind (mens rea) to determine how aware the person is of the pain/damage their act is causing, one can never be sure that the amount of pain chosen for the punishment is proportional to what is “deserved” given the original circumstances. If one does not know the harm they have caused, punishment does nothing to either alleviate the pain of the sufferer (or bystanders), or cure the punished individual of the wrongdoing. Pain and pleasure cannot be measured effectively, and mental capacity to understand the implications of the original wrongful action is not quantifiable. Only a god could use retribution morally. The rest of us simply don’t know.
Rehabilitation is the most moral of all of the forms of punishment. When we seek to rehabilitate the individual in mind, body, or spirit, we are acting to ensure that all people are treated as ends – especially the perp himself. Not only does effective rehabilitation ensure that the actor will not do the same action again, it creates some motive in the actor to make whole what he has broken in his original act. Incapacitation, or punishment that prevents the perp from causing the same action again, is the most moral alternative to rehabilitation – to be used in cases where rehabilitation is impossible or unlikely, and the perp cannot be prevented from doing the action over and over again. It is a last resort, and protects society while still leaving the perp his human dignity.
The actor in the above video seems to be rehabilitated, knowing full well what he did and living with the pain he has caused. Is jail appropriate for the man, as he insists in this video? I don’t believe so. Provided the man will not drink & drive again, there is no reason to think that prison will make anything better (the rape cages that modern American prison have become are a whole other story to the notions of rehabilitation and appropriate punishment). It is too bad that this sad man has it in his mind that prison serves any purpose after he has admitted his guilt and shown his regret. There is nothing left to ensure that the population is safe from his drunk driving, other than the man regulating himself. Prison should be reserved to him only if he cannot refrain from getting behind the wheel when drunk. Anything less is injustice.