Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Difference Between Accident and Collision

We are a second guessing society.  It's the nature of criminal law.  One can't be held accountable until they do something wrong.  A decision many of us make every day turns deadly and we'll be there to judge, blame, and vilify.    

Driving drunk is a crime.  No one realizes that until they are caught.  Or kill someone.  Texting while driving is dangerous.  Speeding is dangerous.  Dialing a number while driving is dangerous.  The vast majority of people have done one or all of the above.  We cite it as no big deal until someone gets hurt.

In Massachusetts this week, eighteen year old Aaron Deveau was found guilty of motor vehicle homicide for texting while driving and crossing over the center line, striking an on-coming car and killing its passenger.  Check out the result in the picture above.

Public reactions in cases like this run from outrage and indignation to thankfulness it was someone else.  Stories of dangerous activities while driving and causing serious accidents appear everyday in every community.  Lives are destroyed due to negligence.

Yet DWI is more prevalent than ever.  Smart phones allow all of us to send a quick message to a friend, or read one.  We all eat or drink coffee in the car.  We spill it and stare down into our lap to see the results.  We have had a rash of DWI deaths this year in my office, including one high profile trial where a renowned doctor struck and killed a teenage girl.  DWI and reckless driving don't afflict only certain segments of the population.  Professionals and the poor share the experience of DWI arrests or losing a loved one to a reckless driver.

During prom season, my office runs STOP-DWI campaigns in the local high schools.  An ADA, police officer, and someone affected by a drunk driver speak to students, hoping to avoid a disaster.  I met a woman the last time I spoke who lost seven family members and friends to drunk drivers.  I can't imagine losing anyone to something so preventable.

Many people are hesitant to judge drunk or reckless drivers and are quick to call such crimes accidents. "There but for the grace of God go I."  That's the common sentiment.  But loading yourself up with booze and getting behind the wheel of a car that weights a ton causes a collision.  The crash is inevitable because alcohol slows down reaction times.  Combine that with all the distractions a car provides - radio, bluetooth, smart phones, food, and drink - and it's amazing there are not more crashes.

An accident is when a driver strikes a deer running across the road.  It's something unavoidable that truly no one could predict.  A collision is when a person's choices create the conditions for a crash, like drinking and driving.  Unlike the social, economic, and family conditions that create violent crime, drunk driving is an easy fix.

So then why are there more arrests every year?


  1. As an ADA in another major city, the thing that drives me truly crazy about DWI/OUI/DUI cases is that it's so easy to find alternatives to driving. There's absolutely no excuse in a metropolitan area (not to say that there is in a rural area). Take the train, catch a cab, or walk it. Driving while impaired is like carrying a firearm while intoxicated -- you're handling a deadly weapon while your judgment is impaired, and it's going to get someone killed.

  2. I'd not heard that distinction before, but I like it very much. Good post.

  3. I think there should be DWIs nad DWDs, Driving While under the Influence and Driving While Distracted like texting or talking on your phone. I put my phone in my bag in the backseat so I can't reach it even if I wanted to. There's nothing so emergent that I can't wait to answer someone's text. DWIs? I agree, it's so preventable. The problem in part is that when you're drunk, you think you're just fine. Not only have you lost your ability to drive properly, you've also lost your ability to judge your own capabilities. That's a problem.

  4. This is one way to educate driver's and give them seminar on road accident. This should be done every renewal of their license to have refresher course on the do's and don't. We can ask help fro DUI lawyers too.

    Joseph @ drink driving interlock

  5. Our culture glorifies alcohol consumption despite the incredible dangers and balks at education, it is no wonder DUI collisions happen so frequently. They're entirely preventable, too - pre-arrange a ride or use public transportation. If you're going to drink alcohol you have a responsibility to do it safely.

    -James from Leo J Dunn Law