July 06, 2009

There is no need to drive with any level of any intoxicating or impairing substance, from alcohol to medications to cellphones. Nothing is that urgent. Our ability to control our vehicles is far from perfect to begin with, but for now that is a risk society as a whole seems willing to accept: so long as the risk is not unnecessarily magnified.

Impaired driving is preventable. You were capable of judgement when you chose to become impaired. When you began drinking or picked up a cellphone, you knew the risks. You may choose to justify them to yourself -- not that drunk, good enough driver to get away with it -- but your self-justification does not make it so. If your judgement does not see why others should not be subjected to increased risk because of your choices, then the law must needs enforce it upon you.

That being said, it ought to make no difference to the law just who was the driver and who was the victim.

What purpose do victim statements really serve? We already know that a death or serious injury leaves a hole that cannot be filled. Are we to think that some lives, some losses, are less important than others? Are we to think that the wishes of a family ought to supercede a neutral law? Should families which practice punitive revenge gain "more" justice than those which practice rehabilitative forgiveness? What becomes then of justice being blind?

What of the hapless person whose drinking and driving happens to kill four elderly ladies who are pillars of their local church? This happened recently in Chatham, Canada, where the driver drank at least one beer and possibly as many as eight beers prior to driving off. Shortly thereafter, his van collided with another car, killing all four people in the other car. Subsequent blood alcohol tests showed a blood alcohol level of three times the legal limit.

What the media immediately seized upon were the identities of those who had been killed.

From that moment forward, it was impossible to pick up a newspaper from the entire region without reading about the four elderly "pie ladies" who always baked pies for their church's functions. They were even headed home from a church supper at the time of the collision. No matter what the story about this collision, it always, invariably, mentioned the "pie ladies".

Will justice be the same for these victims as it would have been had the victims been four unemployed, single men?

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