Pity poor Joe P. Dehetre.
The Turner man is one of the 49 Mainers to have run afoul of Tina’s Law, which imposes a three-year license suspension on motorists deemed habitual offenders, the definition of which is having 10 convictions for moving violations within a five-year period.
Dehetre admits his driving record is miserable (he’s 23 years old and has 23 convictions). His protest, though, is that he’d been on the straight and narrow for months, until he rolled through a stop sign recently and was ticketed, triggering Tina’s Law even though his other offenses occurred before it was enacted.
Now he’s on the roadside, with his mother and girlfriend chauffeuring him around, likely for the next 36 months.
There hasn’t been much sympathy for his predicament, despite his myriad excuses: his 10 speeding tickets were work-related, because his job – delivering tires – meant tight deadlines. He’d done his jail time, and paid his fines for his transgressions. The latest conviction – the stop sign miscue – was minor.
He’s right, but then again, so is Tina’s Law. It was enacted as an incentive for good driving, and to reassure the public the state of Maine is serious about disallowing dangerous, irresponsible motorists from taking the road.
It’s wrong to think that Tina’s Law would solely target devilish drivers, like Scott Hewitt, the trucker from the County whose big-rig killed Tina Turcotte on the Maine Turnpike in 2005, and sparked the law’s creation.
While public sentiment about serial offenders like Hewitt is best concluded with “and throw away the key,” the public benefit for Tina’s Law is preventing others from becoming like him, by removing the privilege to drive a motor vehicle after it becomes clear the rules of the road are being ignored.
In short, Tina’s Law is best applied on drivers like Dehetre.
As before Tina’s Law, drivers like Hewitt (and our favorite scofflaw, Walter Gilmore Noble of Wilton) kept driving despite their suspensions; nothing stopped them, and they eventually got what they deserved: prison.
Tina’s Law won’t stop Dehetre, or the 48 others, from driving. They can jump behind the wheel anytime and zoom away. All Tina’s Law gives irresponsible drivers is a chance to avoid descending into Hewitt-esque depths.
Dehetre should have stopped at that stop sign. He should have looked both ways, waited a full five seconds, and either continued straight or turned (with the appropriate indicator blinking, of course). All Maine drivers are taught the same technique and rules, and it applies to everyone equally.
Now Dehetre has three long years to think about it.
We bet he’ll stop the next time.