A headlining yesterday’s newspaper screamed out to me.
“Alcoholic driver guilty of ninth booze driving offense.”
The story went on to say that this driver had just pled guilty to his 10th criminal driving offense – his ninth one involving alcohol.
Recently he had been so drunk that he had fallen off his stool at a bar and a patron had hailed a cab to drive him home. Despite that act of kindness he had chosen to drive himself home which had led to yet another impaired driving charge.
At the time of his most recent charge he was driving with a suspended license.
Interestingly the prosecuting attorney, in addition to asking the court to impose a sentence of about one year in jail, also asked the court to ban this man from driving for 10 years because clearly, as demonstrated by his previous behavior, a court ordered ban would most definitely keep him from climbing behind the wheel of a car.
It is not my intention to discuss why a man with nine previous impaired driving charges is free to walk the streets, or to weigh his rights against the need to protect society. It is also not my intention to discuss whether this man should be locked up in jail for his actions or whether he is the victim of an horrific disease and is worthy of both treatment and compassion.
On the above topics I will keep my opinions to myself.
Something else happened yesterday that also caught my attention.
For the past two days we’ve had a steady snowfall in a city resulting in icy and challenging driving conditions. Early yesterday morning I was driving to a location in the northwest part of our city in order to present a one-day workshop. I was driving with more than usual caution and attention at the speed limit of 50 kmh as were most of the drivers behind, in front and alongside me.
I heard the sounds of a horn blaring behind me and, glancing in my rear-view mirror, I became aware of a vehicle several cars back weaving in and out of traffic at high speed.
A moment later this vehicle was immediately behind me and the driver was impatiently flashing his headlights to let me know that I was slowing up his progress. I then noticed him changing lanes, passing me, cutting right in front of me and then rapidly widening the distance between us as he sped off.
I did mention the heavy snow fall and icy driving conditions didn’t I?
When he was about 200 metres ahead of me his pickup suddenly veered to one side, spun around in a circle a few times and stopped with him pointing east in a westbound lane. As I drove by his vehicle a moment later I noticed a police vehicle doing a U-turn in the opposite lane and heading towards him. My guess is they were stopping by to offer him coffee.
I, of course, have no way of knowing why he was driving the way he was. The road I was on leads right by one of our cities major hospitals and he may possibly have been heading there as a result of a frantic call summoning him to that location.
Or he may have been driving the way he was driving because he was late for work and had been told by his boss that one more late appearance would result in his termination.
Or there may have been any one of a zillion other reasons.
Or he may have been driving the way he was driving simply because he’s an idiot.
We’ll never know.
There is one thing though, that these two stories have in common.
We have discussed many times in these pages how we only ever do one thing: we always and only do what is important to us in the moment. We may later regret our actions but that regret is irrelevant – the deed is done. The decisions we make that lead to the actions we take are always predicated on our assessment of importance in the moment, right now.
To our friend, the nine times convicted drunk driver, the choice to drive while too drunk to sit on a bar stool came about because in the moment it was more important to him to do that than to accept the kindness of a free ride home in a taxi offered by a stranger.
This decision, regardless of the degree of alcohol induced cognitive impairment, was his decision and he must bear sole responsibility for its consequences. Whether alcoholism is a disease or not, this man’s decision placed other’s at risk and he cannot be allowed to be portrayed as a victim.
And regardless of the reason for the reckless driving up that man in the pickup – even if he was responding to an emergency call to get to the hospital as soon as possible – he too must – and hopefully was – be held accountable.
Our assessment of what is important can never be justification for endangering the lives of others and when we place the well-being of others in jeopardy we deserve the harshest punishment our judicial system can provide.
I am confident that our police officers dealt appropriately with that inconsiderate driver in the pickup, regardless of the excuse he offered up to them.
As for the village drunk? I did mention earlier that it was not my intention to write about what I feel should happen to him.
Well, guess what, I’ve changed my mind. It is but for the grace of God that no lives have yet been lost to this man’s actions but it would seem to me that after 10 convictions for the same offense the likelihood of his behavior changing does not seem promising and I don’t believe this man should be given the opportunity to aim for number 11.
I would far prefer to see this man languish in jail than to have a future headline scream out at me about a life ruined or lost because of him.
We only do what is important in the moment. I think it’s extremely important for the judge in this case to lock this guy up in order to keep the rest of us safe.
That’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it.
Let me know what you think.
Till we read again.