Who is a drink driver? If you imagine they are just young, early 20 something male tradies, think again.
Today the paper publishes its monthly list of convicted drink drivers.
The list records the name and court details of drink drivers convicted in the Tauranga District Court. We publish their age, alcohol reading, and where available, their occupation.
Eighty-nine people were caught driving over the limited on our roads in August. These 89 criminals include a teacher, a caregiver, an engineer and a mechanic. They are both men and women, and range in age from 18, to a 72 year old woman.
This monthly list is always well read by our readers. The paper has been publishing it in print since August 2010, and has recently began posting it on our website and Facebook page.
It is well read online, with a high number of page impressions and Facebook 'likes' from our community.
Recently we received a number of critical comments from our online community, accusing the paper of naming and shaming. One person took exception to the regular printing of the list which he said meant that we were making a lasting record of people's mistakes, which he said would once have been 'petty' crimes. Another commented that "we all make mistakes", and that the paper is making the people "common criminals" without the "slightest thought of the consequences for the individuals and their families". Another reader accused journalists of arrogance, "naive little snots like yourselves take upon themselves to lord it over society under the pretense (sic) of doing the general public a favour."
In 2011, a third of these 'petty crimes' ended in someone's death on New Zealand roads. People who choose to drive drunk are the ones who create the consequences, not just for themselves and their own family, but those of many others, robbing parents of their children, children of their parents, and ripping people away from their lovers, causing injury or permanent disability.
Drink drivers are not just selfish. They are criminals. It is not the Bay of Plenty Times that makes them such by publishing their names. Their conviction is decided by the court and their information is supplied by police under the Official Information Act.
Getting behind the wheel drunk is a crime just as great whether it's a first time crime by a normally law abiding person, slightly over the limit after a few work drinks, or a four times recidivist drink driver. There is no difference in the disastrous consequences and there should be no difference in the excuse.
Police try to keep our roads safe. Proactive campaigns coupled with advertising ram the message home.
This government has taken drink driving seriously with measures such as zero-alcohol limits for under-20s; increased sentences for serious driving offences causing death; mandatory 28-day licence suspension and vehicle impoundment for high-alcohol levels and repeat offenders; as well as legislation coming into force regarding zero-alcohol levels for repeat offenders and alcohol interlocks being fitted to repeat offenders' cars.
Yet people still choose to do it. I do not want to be on the road in a car with my children, turn a corner and meet one of them crossing the centre line towards me. How do we stop them?
This paper is not publishing the list to take a moral high ground. We do not, as journalists, set ourselves out to be perfect citizens. We make many mistakes in life ourselves.
Drink driving is not a mistake or a moral aberrance, it is a crime.
Publicity around criminal offending, usually in the form of media coverage of a court case, is often cited as a deterrent factor. Criminals who feel the glare of the public spotlight are hopefully less likely to reoffend, because of the embarrassment caused.
It is impossible to determine whether the publishing of this list acts as a deterrent. However, it does. Many people have told me, even jokingly, that they think twice about driving drunk because they don't want to see their name in print. Only last week a reader posted that a young person, his family friend, whose whole attitude to drink-driving changed not because they were caught and convicted, but because their name was in the paper and website, meaning a lot more people saw it, and said "It was just the wake-up call they needed and are now on the straight and narrow".
There should be no apologies for outing drink drivers. Even if it just makes people think twice before getting behind the wheel , in my view, it is among the most valuable things we can do as part of our community. If it means people will think twice after a few wines, If that annoys people we make no apologies. I am happy to grouped as a "snot" if it gets drink drivers off our roads.