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?