Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What does it take for the public to sympathize with a drunk driver?

Turns out the general public, who usually has nothing but bad things to say about drunk drivers, can be sympathetic. When one drunk driver is killed by another.

Today, we learned of a plea agreement in a hit and run fatality accident. The accident occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning, as the two drivers went home from a night on the town. The victim had been out celebrating his birthday. Before police or EMT could respond to the scene, the defendant fled. He was found the next day. As far as I know, there is no witness to the accident, so no one is really sure whether the defendant ran a stop sign or just edged too far out into the intersection (it's one of those where you really have to pull out to see if your turn is clear). And no one knows whether the victim was swerving or speeding.

The public around these parts is incensed that the "killer" will get probation and no manslaughter conviction. As for the victim, all they can talk about is how senseless and tragic and unfair it is that his life was cut short by some evil drunk driver. But no one wants to hear that the victim's blood alcohol content was double the legal limit. That's not relevant! Nor is it at all relevant to determine whether the victim contributed to the accident in any way. No, the "killer" was drunk and someone is dead and that is all we need to know.

Because apparently we're not supposed to be the least bit interested in deciding whether the impaired driving actually contributed to the death. All we care about is punishing drunk drivers as severely as we possibly can. In fact, we really should just lock them all up for life after the first time because they're just too dangerous to us all. But if we're so opposed to drunk driving, then shouldn't we also be pretty ticked at the victim for doing it? He took just as much of a risk as the defendant did. It could just as easily have been the victim who lived and the defendant who died. In that case, it seems to me the public around here would just say horrible things about the victim while expressing nothing but the deepest sympathy for the defendant. That irony is totally lost on most of the posters to the local newspaper's comment board. I just find the public's take on this case as proof that our tough stance on DUI has gone clear 'round the bend.

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