Image result for tennessee drunk driving orange vests

I read an article this morning that had me asking myself which side of this particular issue I supported.  The article was describing the Tennessee law that went into effect on January 1, 2006.  This law required convicted drunk drivers to wear a bright orange vest in public for three different days for eight hours at a  time while picking up trash.  Stenciled on the back of the vest are the words “I AM A DRUNK DRIVER” in four-inch tall letters.   Given the threat that drunk drivers have imposed upon the highways, I don’t argue that they should be punished and  I’m sure we all know someone or have ourselves been affected by someone who choses to get behind the wheel after drinking.  But, is this a helpful solution?  The Department of Transportation reports that…

“Every day, 28 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 53 minutes.1 The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion.2  

Here is what some have to say on the issue:

“Supporters say the new state law will help “shame” DWI offenders into better decision making in the future. “You cause them to go out and pick up trash in front of their friends and neighbors, the embarrassment is going to be such that they’re never going to want to go through that again,” said sponsor state Rep. Charles Curtiss. “Hopefully you can turn them around to never become a second-time offender.”

But critics say the program will prove to be costly and ineffective if it does not include a treatment component. “If I’m forced to wear a sign saying that I’m a drunk driver, then I’m going to feel worse and worse about myself and I may drink more and more because I feel shunned,” said Jacqueline Helfgott, chair of the criminal justice department at Seattle University.”    

(See full article at: http://www.drugfree.org/news-service/drunk-drivers-shamed-on-tenn-roadsides/)

After researching a little more, I found that there are even more instances where “shaming”  is used as punishment for certain behaviors.  Is this a true deterrent for illegal or harmful behavior?

Proponents of judicial shaming feel that simply paying a fine is trivial in comparison to the embarrassment and humiliation of a “shaming sentence”.  When paying a fine, the guilt is quickly  removed but the humiliation punishment forces the offender to face the seriousness of the bad behavior.

While on the other hand, opponents to the shaming sentences feel that this perhaps falls into the category of “cruel and unusual punishment”.  Hmmmm?

I am a fence sitter on this one.  I see both sides.  I would love to hear what you think on this issue.



  1. Shaming. Who does it benefit?

    Probably not the people who are being shamed! I doubt it’s a deterrent!

    Does it then serve to satisfy a segment of the public who feels a need to have a sort or justice/revenge/satisfaction because of possible negative consequences?

    If it hasn’t proven to be a deterrent, then why keep doing it?

    Yes to public service, no to vests!

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and for following!

    Peace, Tamara


  2. This is a tough one. I would imagine thst anyone who has lost a loved one or been impacted in any way by a drunk driver would say they are getting off easy having to wear the vest. On the other hand I doubt it will in and of itself do anything to change the behavior. I say let them quietly clean up the trash and shame them by having them listen to panels of people whose loved ones were killed or maimed by drunk drivers, maybe that might compel them to seek help for their addiction and/or rethink drinking and driving in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very compassionate and balanced thoughts Kim! I agree as well that wearing the vest in and of itself would not change the pattern of behavior of drinking and driving. I agree with Suze on this that treatment for the drinking is probably the most effective way to deal with the problem. Thanks so much for your comment.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I also believe some form of punishment should be given but I think this would only work for a small number of very young, very impresionable young folks, if at all. They may think twice before drinking and driving again if this was their punishment but, like you, I’m not sure how effective it would be in the long run. Thanks for you comment. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have always had a problem with the “I am”… versus “I have or I did”. Just because I drove drunk doesn’t mean “I am a drunk driver”… just means “I drove drunk”.. I have always had the same reaction to “I am an alcoholic” versus “I have alcoholism”… it should not define who I am… can you imagine someone say “I am malignant cancer”?… maybe just words… but I struggle with the “I am”… I know.. just words… now… with respect to driving drunk…

    I do believe that you should be punished… i also believe you should be ashamed… but feeling ashamed and being shamed might be two different things…. How do you make someone ashamed of their behavior?… and desire change… I really have no idea..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really like that…”feeling ashamed” and “being shamed” are 2 different things. The “feeling” has to come from within, right? Just because one is “shamed” does not necessarily make them “feel” ashamed. The solution would seem to have to be a change from within the individual, hence a good treatment plan. Thanks so much for the insight!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I am a retired ADC (alcohol/drug counselor) and in my opinion this will do absolutely nothing to serve as a deterrent. What it will do is shame the alcoholic drivers into drinking more in an attempt to get rid of the shame. This will more than likely result in more suicides, more drunk driving, more vehicular homicides. Not a good thing IMO. I just finished reading the law and noticed there is no component for treatment which I believe you mentioned. Treatment is absolutely necessary if one wants to reduce the number of alcohol and drug related drunk driving incidents..not to mention lowering Domestic Violence incidents. Treatment really does work. It is far less expensive than locking people up, it reduces the likelihood of recidivism. It gets people sober long term. Shaming people does not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Suze, for your comments. That’s what I wanted to hear-others opinions on the subject. Your background in ADC really is important because you have experience dealing with this issue of alcohol and drug abuse. Thanks so much for sharing your opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

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