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[Ben]:Drunk wheelchairing? Discuss This [1 comment so far] View Comments
In Australia, it is apparently against the law to operate a wheelchair while drunk.

As I've always understood it, the reasoning behind laws against drunk driving tend to revolve around the danger that can come of drunk drivers. I'm personally torn on the issue. On one hand, I deplore the property damage, injuries and death that come from intoxicated drivers. To me, drinking and taking control of a vehicle or deadly weapon is irresponsible in the extreme. At the same time, it is a form of prior restraint that rubs me the wrong way.

Ignoring the validity of prior restraint, making it a crime to operate any conveyance while intoxicated is well beyond the realm of conceivably valid prior restraint. I see at least two major problems with this.

First, I'm assuming that operating one's own legs is still legal and accepted in Australia. If that is the case, one could easily make a case (at least in the US under one of our many, many, many anti-discrimination laws) that a wheelchair-bound individual is being discriminated against as they are prohibited by law from so much as moving if they have more than .05% BAC.

Secondly, if drunk driving is prohibited because of the great harm that car accidents can have and the fact that intoxication can increase the chances that you will be involved in an accident, how can you justify the application of the same rule to bicycles, wheelchairs and horses? Granted, a determined bicyclist might injure someone, a spooked horse can be dangerous and a wheelchair can run over someone's foot, but should they qualify for operational prohibition while intoxicated? As with any law, it must be determined where the line must be drawn. Should roller skates be covered too? Office chairs? Walkers? How far should it go?

I realize that the gentleman in this article caused a dangerous situation by passing out with his wheelchair in the middle of the road, but it would have been likewise dangerous if he had passed out while laying on the street, wouldn't it?
  2008-06-25
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