Monday, September 07, 2009

Drunk driving and children

I don't drink. Gave it up when my girlie was born. So, it may be easy for me to take a harder stand on drunk driving than some people. I don't think that matters much. While it's true there are probably some people who can have a few drinks and still function, the fact is, many people can't. And people die as a result.

I know there's no intent to kill someone. And that makes it hard to come down hard on those who do kill people as a result of driving drunk. Still. We're all smart people. We know drinking can impair your ability to function. And it IS against the law. For me it's another instance where we spend too much time on the lives and rights of those who break the law, and not enough on the victims, their friends, and their families who's lives have been destroyed.

But, if I have little tolerance for people who drive drunk, there's even less for those who drive drunk with kids in the car.

Several summers ago, my wife and I heard the tell tale sound of a vehicle crash. It took place on Appleton right down the street where we live. It was a single car crash. A woman hit a light post . . . one of those cement varieties and wrecked up her car pretty good. It was about 11:30 at night. My wife was one of the first on the scene. Turns out there were kids in the car. My wife spent some time consoling a girl about 9 years old. The girl was unharmed. There was also a baby in a car seat unharmed. When I came to the scene, police were already there. They were trying to get the woman to calm down. She was clearly drunk and more concerned about her car and herself than any of the kids in her car.

Including the lifeless clump of a 3 year old boy lying on the floor of the front passenger seat. The woman's car wasn't going that fast. About 40 mph. But, that was enough speed to send the boy, who wasn't buckled in, in to the dash, breaking his neck.

It's one thing to be an adult and make certain decisions in your life. Hopefully experience and the knowledge of consequence will guide one to make smart decisions. If you make a bad decision, and you get hurt, and you're the only one who gets hurt . . . well, the only one you can blame is yourself. You're responsible, you suffer the consequences. But, when innocent lives are lost as a result of the decision to drink, get drunk, then get behind the wheel of a car . . . suddenly the consequences of your actions affect the lives of innocents. People who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Without diminishing the lives of those who died as a result of drunk drivers, I think it's particularly stupid to drive drunk with kids in the car. As illustrated the 3 year old who died, an accident doesn't have to include another vehicle to turn tragic. An adult may see the situation as "iffy" and make the choice to drive home with someone else. An adult might see that a person is impaired and offer to do the driving. An adult can make the decision to fasten their seatbelt. Kids can't make those decisions. They are blissfully ignorant. They look to adults to make the right choices for them. At a young age they don't recognize when certain situations are potentially dangerous.

Right now a first DUI is a traffic citation in Wisconsin. The only state with that provision. The only state. Sen. Jim Sullivan (D-Wauwatosa) and Rep. Tony Staskunas (D-West Allis) are looking to make a first time drunk driving offense a crime when children are in the car. I think it's important they make that change in state law.

I've often said, the one way to get away with murder is to get drunk and run someone over with your car. In Wisconsin we seem to care little about innocent lives. That needs to change. If you agree, contact both representatives and voice your support:

Jim Sullivan:

Tony Staskunas:

1 comment:

Ann said...

A family member has been cited for DUI AT LEAST five times now. He has gone to prison at least three times, but had work release. Recently (last year) he was caught behind the wheel again - I don't know if he was DUI or just driving illegally as he has no license - but he is now awaiting his next prison stint early in 2010.
It makes me sick that he keeps doing this. He's never hurt anyone but himself . . . yet, but that's just dumb luck, if you ask me. It hurts that he's family, yet just because he's family doesn't mean I don't want him off the road before he kills someone. Your post was a few months ago - is Sullivan still the guy to contact? Because I will write him.