An otherwise beautiful young person stood in court handcuffed and wearing an orange jump suit. Tearfully they addressed the court.
“I’m sorry for what I did,” they sobbed. “Fleeing the scene of the accident is the biggest mistake of my life.”
I do not doubt the sincerity. The young person was just sentenced to more than three years in prison. Also a mother, the woman was losing her son. I do, however, doubt the judgment. I doubt the assessment that the decision to run was the mistake. Sadly it was only the tip of a titanic-sized iceberg and wasn’t the first or last lapse of judgement on her part.
Where did things go awry? It was hours before the accident when a totally sober person made the decision to embark on an evening of drink with no thought process to address simple questions like, “How will I get myself home?”
The person who made that decision, although fully conscious, uncompromised and presumably rational, didn’t stop to consider the possibility of fateful events. Such planning didn’t rise to the level of being important. There was fun to be had.
Of course, we all know decision-making skills hit the toilet as soon as strong drink hits the gullet. That’s the way it works. No big surprise there. That’s why it’s prudent to make such important decisions and plans well before the alcohol begins to flow.
The record shows the young person didn’t exercise much care when it came to driving. Her driver’s license had been suspended at least four times since 2009. She had at least 12 convictions on traffic offenses (none DUII related) since 2007. Offenses included speeding, not wearing a seat belt, driving with a suspended license, and use of a cell phone while driving.
Without a plan and legally intoxicated, the decision was made. The young person would operate a motor vehicle while drunk. It would be a fateful night.
Meanwhile, not too far away, a bicyclist had a flat tire. In the dark and on the side of the road, he was then hit from behind by the drunk driver. He was sent to the hospital ICU unit. He suffered several broken bones, including both legs, a ruptured spleen and other minor injuries.
The driver did not stop. She did not render assistance to her victim. Her alcohol-addled brain deduced (rightfully so) that she’d get in trouble. It was her choice to flee. Apparently what she was unable to deduce was that her very best option at that moment was to do the right thing. And that was something her hobbled mind was unable to fathom.
It didn’t end there, though.
Later, once she was sober and presumably had her normal decision-making abilities restored, her next move was to take her car to a body shop in a calculated attempt to conceal what she had done. Luckily someone tipped off police and, finally, once she was left with no other recourse, she made a decision to take responsibility and turn herself in. It was a long time coming and had little meaning by then.
Once again, I conclude things like this come down to a lack of empathy and an inability to reason consequences for our own actions. Young people, it seems to me, are especially prone to this of late. The news reports are rife with hit-and-run cases. It almost feels like hit-and-run is now standard procedure rather than an aberration.
In this case, in addition to jail, the judge also suspended her driver’s license for five years. That feels woefully insignificant to me. Without significant consequences, behavior will not change. She should have lost her driving privileges for life. Not merely because she drove drunk but because of all the choices she made.
Prison isn’t exactly known as a system that churns out improved persons. So, apparently, our future has the possibility of this woman back behind the wheel. I do not like the thought of that.
I’m not a huge fan of alcohol related offenses being punished as harshly as they are for first time offenders who aren’t involved in an accident, but this woman deserves what she got for leaving and then trying to hide what she did. She’s sorry she got caught. Who knows how many times she didn’t get caught doing lord knows what?
I respect your opinion and your input. I tend to take a harsher view and feel the lack of an accident is irrelevant. I view driving while intoxicated as attempted murder at the very least. The stakes are just that high. I think too often our approach to handling DUI cases is half-measures that contribute to horrible outcomes down the road. Thanks for the comment!
In my youth, I wasn’t perfect; I took chances a few times, and by the grace of God never caused another person any harm. The lifelong affects of drunk driving are very close to home in my family. My husband’s father was killed when he was nineteen, the oldest, and there were three younger siblings who my mother-in-law raised alone. If you are reading this: don’t drink and drive, and if you see someone heading to a car who is under the influence, please be the mean one and do what you have to do to stop them from driving. Thanks for the story–it is appreciated.
I will admit the same. When younger I got away with being behind the wheel when I had no business being there. Fortunately that was a rare thing and I grokked before having to learn via disastrous consequences. There has to be a better way of getting the seriousness of stuff like this besides “go figure it out on your own.” The costs of that approach are too damn high. Young people aren’t getting certain realities until it is too late. I’m sorry about your husband’s loss. Too many have been taken that way. Thanks for the comment!
Unfortunately, in our “everyone is special” world, she probably thought she was too good/clever/in control for this to happen to her, and she would get away with it. Which is all well and good.
Until she didn’t.
As a disclaimer, I’ve done more than my share of this kind of stupidity in my youth. Fortunately, I managed to get lucky until I got smarter.
I’m in the same boat as you. Being able to discern certain realities without first having the experience must be a sign of advanced intelligence. Since we’re on a collision course with Idiocracy it’s not going to go well for a lot of people.
You are right, the choice must be made before the drinking begins. She wouldn’t have been sorry had she been lucky enough to get home without a mishap. These folks rarely say “wow, I shouldn’t have driven last night”.
She blaming the wrong moment of choice, that’s for sure. I’m unable to even think about ordering a drink without planning what will be what in my mind. If there’s no acceptable out, the drinking doesn’t take place. Period.
I think the other thing that a lot of people fail to consider is that once you drink to excess, you are automatically in the wrong no matter what happens. If you have no fault in an accident you will still fry just because you were intoxicated. That’s a lot to take on just for a few moments of fun. If it’s that fun find a better way to do it.
Just to clarify, after reading my comment, my husband was nineteen when his father was killed by a drunk driver; his father was forty-six.
That’s a rough one. My father was also taken too early but I was 40 at the time. I can’t even imagine. What a horrible way to lose someone.
Kind of off topic but I’ve always thought that 16 is too young to get a drivers license. Without proper instruction and watchful parents, bad driving habits can become the norm and once learned, are very hard to change.
I happen to agree. I’ve always felt the same. You can only imagine some of the vehicular stunts I’ve pulled. I got my license on the day I turned 16. I’m lucky to be alive.
Once I fell asleep on the Freemont Bridge in Portland, Oregon, and bounced off that lovely protective rail a.k.a. my guardian angel. 🙂