DUIs Won't Go On Facebook, Huntington Beach Decides

By Jackie Cohen Comment

Privacy activists, take note: Huntington Beach, California decided not to post the names of suspected drunk drivers on the local police department’s Facebook page.

Yesterday, the Huntington Beach city council voted against a proposal to use public shaming on the social network to try to deter drunk drivers, according to the Orange County Register. Arguments against doing so included claims that it might not be effective in slowing down arrests for driving under intoxication, worries that bad publicity that might deter tourism and concerns for possible embarrassment of drivers’ family members.

That brings the coastal community back to square one of a very tough issue: Huntington Beach has the third largest drunk driving rate in California for a city of its size; and 31 percent of vehicle-related deaths in the state involve intoxicated drivers. Addressing the problem through public shaming on Facebook has created a lot of controversy for the city, and much anger has been directed at the proposal’s creator, Councilman Devin Dwyer. He’d wanted to post on the social network the names and photos of habitual drunken drivers — but how does one define habitual?

Dwyer’s idea wouldn’t have resulted in the city’s first-ever publicized DUIs. The local newspaper, the Huntington Beach Independent, used to publish these arrests but stopped doing so after a change in management. Meanwhile, the city’s police department continues to post all arrest information on its website, thereby achieving some amount of the intended public shaming that some believe may help reduce crime.

However, that doesn’t appear to suffice because the city has averaged 1,700 DUI arrests annually over the past three years, despite local police professing to have one of the country’s toughest strategies for catching offenders. Huntington Beach still has a serious problem with intoxicated drivers, according to an official report submitted to the city council this summer.

Perhaps the city could still leverage Facebook to combat drunk driving, without having to resort to shaming individuals. Viral campaigns encouraging people to post status updates about the DUI problem might be one way to achieve this.

What do you think Huntington Beach could do via social media to help reduce intoxicated driving accidents in the area? Would you feel inspired to change your habits by a campaign on Facebook?