It has been said that more people are afraid of public speaking than they are of dying. This thought must have crossed the minds of those who thought up a new strategy for curbing drinking and driving offenders.
In a society where other people's opinions of us often mean a great deal, two newspapers have joined forces with police and are taking the anti-drunk-driving message one step further by putting those charged in between their pages.
The Brampton Guardian and The Mississauga News are choosing to publish lists of drivers who are charged with being over the legal blood alcohol level. The purpose of the list is to deter drivers from drinking because they wouldn't want their name to end up on public display.
It's unfortunate the notion exists that threats of public exposure for crimes is possibly a greater deterrent than the potential effects of the crime itself. However, for some people, embarrassment and peer pressure significantly influence their actions.
There is no doubt this public shaming of drunk drivers has good intentions behind it. Papers are trying to offer a community service by laying guilt and shame on offenders and encouraging their fellow citizens to help those who have a serious problem. Granted, any initiative which decreases instances of the offence are positive. But the actual publishing of the list has some problems.
People with the same names as offenders may be caught in public humiliation without actually being involved in any offence. The John Smiths of the world would have no ability to defend themselves if their shared names are published in a list. There will have to be a way to avoid any confusion.
Secondly, newspapers will have to justify why they would separate drunk driving from other offences people commit. Should lists of thieves, those who engage in prostitution, break-and-enter and so on, also be published in lists in the newspapers? If so, it would surely make for some pretty boring reading.
The truth is, the names of people charged with impaired driving are already a matter of public record. It is not the job of newspapers to be the good cops, but if community papers feel the lists are a part of their mandate through the new initiatives, it is their right to do so.