DEARBORN — Reckless driving has no doubt become the city’s personal epidemic and the revving engines and mufflers screaming like banshees throughout neighborhoods on a daily basis are now our perennial background noise. Sadly, the number of fatal accidents, too, do not seem to be going away any time soon and the keen interest in street burnouts, street donuts, speed racing down the city’s main roads, etc. have become over the years almost irrevocably embedded in the youth culture here.
Dearborn Police are now trying to rein in the issue after having increased the financial and legal penalties for those breaking traffic ordinances. However, the question needs to be raised whether making the penalties harsher is convincing enough to make significant reductions in cases of reckless driving and making our accident-prone streets safer.
On first impression, cranking up the severity of penalties for traffic violations seems like tapering over ever widening cracks and therefore a short-term resolution.
But this can be scrutinized further in a number of ways, most important of which is its purely proscriptive outlook: As a resident myself, what I currently see is a police department using the prospect of harsher penalties to dissuade anyone from recklessly driving, which of course makes sense on first look as the situation on our streets desperately calls for punitive measures.
But remember who makes up a significant portion of this city’s reckless drivers on the streets is well-known, especially if you (like me) live on the east end: Young impulsive guys pursuing the adrenaline of risky street exercises. And so, as crude but true as it is, any kind of legal or financial penalties are nothing to sneeze at in comparison to the great momentary fun of pressing down on the gas (Not to mention that by making reckless driving even more punishable and therefore raising the stakes, we just might be ironically feeding into this demographic’s interest in being maximally rash and perilous.).
In other words, there does not seem to a good chance that harsher penalties will dissuade such drivers. Despite all those countless accidents and the many lives lost, still nothing convinces them to stop putting themselves at risk, so why would the possibility of heavy charges be any cause for anxiety if all this horror hasn’t? Showing the stern finger and impounding cars and giving high fees may not be the way out. It might even unintentionally cause more unwillingness to abide by the law (and maybe lead to recidivism down the line).
This is just my reflection and understanding as a lifelong east Dearborn resident and I cannot see things like fines doing the job. There is also the ethical worry that plenty of these rather spirited young individuals come from families who struggle to get by, and by burdening them with high costs and other losses, it is their parents who are left alienated and embittered and wondering how to deal with it all.
How do we go about protecting our families’ young without seeming to be too heavy-handed and harsh about it? Is there a paradox in this? Can we, our police, our city, families, whomever, actually cause more harm than good when we try to crack down on this problem by being as imposing and strict as possible? Are there maybe other problems dovetailing with this? After all, this whole thing may not be about one problem only. Is there something else underlying or related to this evidently growing culture of reckless driving? Is there something else that can be done aside from more enforcement and policing? Is there a way that is both effective and considerate at the same time?
I ask as just another local who lives here, but do not know how to answer to this. Still, there absolutely needs to be something else besides, say, more fines and greater penalties. It’s open-ended. So what do you think? There is something about all this that concerns everybody. I think everyone here has known the frightful feeling that attends driving on these roads. The issue can even feel dauntingly larger than us and this is why sometimes, even as I am driving down the roads and powerlessly afraid that something could happen at any moment, I can only ever hope everything will be okay.