Skip

"this collision ... won't be an isolated incident"
March 10, 2014 6:13 PM   Subscribe

Broken Stride
There's an ongoing culture war in America between fitness enthusiasts and automobiles — a quiet, persistent, and almost entirely one-sided battle that creates new casualties every day. The legal skirmish surrounding the death of Ashley Poissant reveals this stark divide. The Clinton County District Attorney and Poissant's friends insist that when an 85-year-old man with an unsafe level of alcohol in his blood and a steering wheel in his hand collides with and kills a 27-year-old woman, it is a crime, a form of homicide. Trombly's attorney says it's a horrible accident, one that the women contributed to by running at dusk on the wrong side of the road. He believes an accident, even a fatal one, doesn't warrant sending an octogenarian to a New York state penitentiary.
posted by the man of twists and turns (95 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
He believes an accident, even a fatal one, doesn't warrant sending an octogenarian to a New York state penitentiary.

I note the whole 'drunk driving' bit is omitted.
posted by winna at 6:22 PM on March 10 [25 favorites]


"I daresay," he says, "if you were to jail everyone in the North Country, forget about accidents, who has two beers driving around on their way home after work, you'd probably have, I don't know, 20,000 people on a Saturday night in prison."

Wow.

.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:24 PM on March 10 [12 favorites]




"I daresay," he says, "if you were to jail everyone in the North Country, forget about accidents, who has two beers driving around on their way home after work, you'd probably have, I don't know, 20,000 people on a Saturday night in prison."

I'm as against the prison-industrial complex as anyone, but I'd be okay with that. Better to lock up the ones who are doing harm than the ones who just want to dull their own pain.
posted by Etrigan at 6:28 PM on March 10 [9 favorites]


I note the whole 'drunk driving' bit is omitted.

Huh?

"with an unsafe level of alcohol in his blood"

posted by Benway at 6:28 PM on March 10


And on reading the full article, it's not even his first drunk driving arrest, just the first time he killed someone doing it.
posted by winna at 6:29 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


80 years old and drinking. Screams incapacitated driver. Life in prison is the correct answer.

I drink. Many would consider me a drunk. I will not drive if I have been drinking, period.

If you drink, do not drive. If you do and do, well, you deserve the punishment.
posted by eriko at 6:29 PM on March 10 [34 favorites]


I note the whole 'drunk driving' bit is omitted.

Huh?

"with an unsafe level of alcohol in his blood"


I was referring to the sad little violin music description for the poor old man who happened to murder someone while he was driving drunk in my excerpt.
posted by winna at 6:32 PM on March 10 [8 favorites]


She did it the easiest, cheapest way she knew how — by running on public roadways. She was new to it, and she probably didn't know all the rules, because this society doesn't bother to make them clear.

Also, this. I commute on foot in an area with very poorly designed sidewalks and pedestrian crossings. There are endless numbers of signs for drivers about other cars, and almost no signs for cars about pedestrians, or pedestrians alone. (Aside from the vacuous THE RED HAND MEANS DO NOT CROSS rules boards nailed to some poles, which are really only good if the signals bother to change anyway, or if there even are signals.) How many drivers know which side of the road to run on, or when the walk lights cycle vs. the car lights? How many drivers research changes in pedestrian laws when they move? (I admit I had to do this and I'm still getting used to the differences.) How can pedestrian safety be a better part of infrastructure decisions?
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:36 PM on March 10 [6 favorites]


Don't lock him up as punishment.

Lock him up so he doesn't kill anyone else.
posted by stargell at 6:36 PM on March 10 [26 favorites]


Is the DA an elected position? Because that fucker needs to be recalled.
posted by lalochezia at 6:37 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


"I daresay," he says, "if you were to jail everyone in the North Country, forget about accidents, who has two beers driving around on their way home after work, you'd probably have, I don't know, 20,000 people on a Saturday night in prison.".

Meh - that's a self-serving statement from the defense attorney.

Beyond that, Trombly's defense will fight hard against admitting the blood alcohol test, arguing that in his dazed state after the crash, the defendant was coerced into going to the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital for a blood draw. "There's a real issue of consent there," Cohen says.

That's some chutzpah - "Fuck man, I was drunk and I just killed someone, I wasn't in the right state of mind when I let you check my alcohol level." (note: not an actual quote).

It's an attorney's job to say his client shouldn't see prison time. If the lawyer had some other opinion, he would be a pretty awful lawyer to have.

I hope he never drives again in his life - I'm not sure how much jail time will serve the public interest, however (a breathalyzer on his car for life, fer certain). And given how famously easy it is to get a grand jury to indict (if your a ham sandwhich anyways), it's pretty chilling that a DA can keep going in from of grand jury's until they say yes.
posted by el io at 6:39 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I'm as against the prison-industrial complex as anyone, but I'd be okay with that. Better to lock up the ones who are doing harm than the ones who just want to dull their own pain.

And to this end I've often suggest that rather set up the periodic checkpoint perimeter around my town's entertainment district, they should have cops walking the parking lots on our strip to meet and greet homeward/Tacobell bound revelers. "Looks like you might be getting into your car there, son. How about I call you a cab?"
posted by sourwookie at 6:40 PM on March 10 [9 favorites]


I could consider leniency, but he blew .18 ten years ago and he's still drinking and driving? Nope.

Save the mitigating circumstances for the civil suits.
posted by delfin at 6:49 PM on March 10 [16 favorites]


I have recently taken up running, but I'm doing it on a treadmill. I'm doing this because I used to be a fairly active cyclist, and as I have now explained to a number of people who are sure that I am going to completely destroy my knees doing this, cycling is low-impact right up until the point where you get into a run-in with a car. But that's even without introducing alcohol. If this guy's attorney is so convinced this is normal behavior, I'm not sure he should have his license, either.
posted by Sequence at 6:54 PM on March 10 [10 favorites]


There's no way to tell without stopping and testing everyone, but I'd be curious to know the rate of accidents per x number of miles driven legally drunk. I think know there are a LOT of people who "casually" drive drunk many times and nothing ever happens, so it's easy to think it never will. But what are the numbers? Are you 10x more likely to cause an accident? 100x?
posted by desjardins at 6:55 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Oh man. I commute by bus and foot, for a lot of reasons. There are some places where "the wrong side of the street" is the side with the widest (and so safest, I feel) shoulder. I have ok hearing and I don't use headphones while walking. I look over my shoulder...frequently. Due to the requirements of working when and where I can get it, I often find myself walking after dusk, as well as early in the morning. My greatest fear about these walks is that if I get run over by a car I'll be written off as just another poor person in the way of someone with more resources.

I can't help but wonder how much of the lackadaisical attitude toward killing this woman has to do with the fact that she worked at McDonalds (recently promoted to manager, but still, not exactly white collar stuff). Twombly owns the building that houses the pub where he had his "two beers," and had frequently been served coffee by the bilingual immigrant he killed.
posted by bilabial at 7:12 PM on March 10 [32 favorites]


There's no way to tell without stopping and testing everyone, but I'd be curious to know the rate of accidents per x number of miles driven legally drunk. I think know there are a LOT of people who "casually" drive drunk many times and nothing ever happens, so it's easy to think it never will. But what are the numbers? Are you 10x more likely to cause an accident? 100x?

Per this study on the epidemiology of impaired driving, an adult male with a BAC between 0.10 and 0.15 (e.g. the shitbag mentioned this post) is 29 times more likely to die in a single-vehicle collision versus a sober driver; of course, that's only one collision type, and the statistics do not control for very old drivers. Even a BAC of 0.02 is associated with a 3 times increase in single-vehicle collision deaths. Unless you are a very infrequent driver or work in a particularly dangerous occupation or are a heavy smoker, driving is already the most dangerous thing you do in a day; raising the risk even 3 times is stupid.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 7:14 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]


I have to avoid articles about the American prison system, because after reading then I am inevitably depressed and useless to anyone for hours or even days after. No one deserves to be sent to one of our jails. Not even this old murderer. Fine the shit out of him and employ measures to ensure he's never again behind the wheel of a car.

But don't put him in one of our prisons.

(Derail, I know. But I realized just now that even though murder by automobile is one of the things most likely to fill me with righteous fury, I still can't countenance subjecting even a murder-by-auto perpetrator to our prisons. I guess I'm radically anti-prison now.)
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:14 PM on March 10 [11 favorites]


who has two beers

His blood test showed 0.12 an hour and a half after the crash. That's not two beers.
posted by ryanrs at 7:14 PM on March 10 [22 favorites]


There are places where it's completely safe to ride a bike, to walk, and to jog. Hell, in those places, it's even safe to drive a car.

Because people don't drive like entitled assholes to whom a death is just an "accident."

Oh, and also because those cities are built to accommodate more than just automobile volume.
posted by entropone at 7:15 PM on March 10 [12 favorites]


All people stopped drunk by the police have had "two beers".
posted by thelonius at 7:16 PM on March 10 [35 favorites]


There's no way to tell without stopping and testing everyone, but I'd be curious to know the rate of accidents per x number of miles driven legally drunk. I think know there are a LOT of people who "casually" drive drunk many times and nothing ever happens, so it's easy to think it never will. But what are the numbers? Are you 10x more likely to cause an accident? 100x?

According to the CDC, driving with a BAC of 0.05% shows similar impairment to driving after being awake for 18 hours. A BAC of 0.1% is comparable to 24 hours without sleep. Since most people don't drink and drive right after getting up, these effects are compounded.

http://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdrowsydriving/
posted by justkevin at 7:17 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


A whole hell of a lot of people wake up still drunk, shower, and drive to work.
posted by thelonius at 7:19 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


The guy should go to prison, but please do not jog on the street at night.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:20 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


I daresay," he says, "if you were to jail everyone in the North Country, forget about accidents, who has two beers driving around on their way home after work, you'd probably have, I don't know, 20,000 people on a Saturday night in prison."

winna: And on reading the full article, it's not even his first drunk driving arrest, just the first time he killed someone doing it.

These two things are very much related. People don't think it's a big deal to have a drink or two then drive, or figure they're safe enough and taxis are expensive if you're just a bit tipsy*. Or every one else has had more to drink than they had. So they drive, and it's no big deal because no one gets hurt. And maybe they get caught for swerving a time or two, but still no one got hurt, and it sucks to be without your car for a while, or in jail, but it passes, and everyone still drinks a bit and drives.

But then when someone does get hurt, it's just an accident,** because everyone does it, right? And it was dark. Or at least the light was poor. But why should two people have to suffer for this accident?

* If you're tipsy, you're still too drunk to drive.
** Police*** and transportation folks don't refer to vehicular collisions of any sort as "accidents" because there was always someone at fault, to some degree. They're always crashes.
*** There's specific training police can get to assess vehicle-pedestrian or bicycle crashes, which greatly increases the likelihood that a police officer will credit the crash to driver fault.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:23 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Wow. Sad story.

One of my elderly relatives started drinking excessively around age 80, after his wife died. He got nabbed, once, in a roadside test, and that was the end of his driving career. The family helped make sure of that.

I don't really know if prison is the answer for this guy but for sure I would permanently ban the guy from driving again. there will also be civil consequences.

I don't see this as evidence of a "culture war" between joggers and cars.
posted by Artful Codger at 7:26 PM on March 10 [6 favorites]


What about this: first DUI = lifelong breathalizer to start the car up (along with fines, points, etc). There is technology that can help solve this problem.
posted by el io at 7:29 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


People don't think it's a big deal to have a drink or two then drive, or figure they're safe enough and taxis are expensive if you're just a bit tipsy*.

And what do you do with your car? Overnight street parking will get you at best a ticket, at worst towed, and you run a much greater risk of vehicle theft/break-ins in the nightlife districts. I'm not saying I agree with the calculus, but that's how people think. "Hm, nothing happened the last dozen times I had two beers and drove, and it's a $50 cab ride and $20 parking ticket and..." etc
posted by desjardins at 7:34 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


If you're going to drink, how about you don't take your car in the first place.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:37 PM on March 10 [21 favorites]


I stopped reading this turgid article when I could no longer stand being bludgeoned with journamalism. I do not need to be manipulated into an opinion about this event. Sportswriters should never be allowed to do hard news.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:37 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


It's the defense's duty to defend and I can therefore see why talk of accidents and locking up an octogenarian finds its way into the discussion, but there's so many unfortunately mixed issues in that statement from Trombly's attorney.

Accident? Yes. Crime? Yes. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Involuntary manslaughter is both.

Is the state pen the right punishment for an 80-something drunk driver? Possibly not, but that's really not about guilt and is more about the fact that the criminal justice system appears to have/overuse ridiculously blunt tools for working with the guilty. We should use prison less. But someone who is convicted of repeat DUIs clearly needs both help and severe restrictions on their future liberty.
posted by weston at 7:41 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


I jog pretty regularly on safe, well lit roads. I wear the proper reflective gear and follow proper safety precautions. I'm going to estimate that the number of drivers that are a danger to me is so small that its close to 0%.

That said, the drivers that are a danger to me are a huge, huge danger. I know that roads without sidewalks or long stretches of straight road are particularly dangerous so when I can't avoid those sections of road, I'm on high guard. The places where I've nearly been hit, however, are crosswalks where I waited for the light to change and had the right of way, well lit areas where I'm on the sidewalk and somebody is turning into their driveway without signalling or slowing down and other similar situations. I've learned to be on my guard all the time - and even that really isn't enough because some miniscule portion of drivers just don't pay attention to the world around them.

I don't know that I'd say there's a culture war or anything but there are a lot of first class assholes who have vehicles and licenses. Normal human beings, I think, recognize the seriousness of harming somebody with their car. Sociopaths, not so much.

Having a car doesn't give you the right to kill somebody with it and walk away feeling good about yourself. It shouldn't give you the right to keep owning a license or a car.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:41 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


She ran sober. He got drunk and drove a weapon that killed her.

If going to jail wasn't on his Bucket List, he shouldn't have pulled that irresponsible little stunt...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:03 PM on March 10


[A few comments deleted. Let's skip a derail along the Darwin Awards/aren't bicyclists annoying line?]
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:07 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Fuck your car.

I seriously love my custom trans am. It's even got a built in bong (for the passenger!) but it's evil. Cars are the devil-- let's not pretend here. Noisy, polluting, dangerous and psychosis-inducing. If you bump into someone while walking, even if it's their fault, you apologize. If someone gets too close to you in their car while you're in yours, you want to murder them!
posted by chaz at 8:10 PM on March 10 [7 favorites]


HyperBlue, that's the same thing I hear about being a woman in certain spaces. Or in certain outfits. You know, no need to ask for a groping.

And oddly enough, just as the scariest places for me as a woman are NOT dark alleys, the scariest places for me when I'm walking are crosswalks, as others have mentioned. Drivers turning left never look for pedestrians, and drivers making a right on red don't glance into the space ahead of them to look for me either. At least once a week I pound on the back of someone's car and shout "that's not how I want to die!" after they've come terrifyingly close to running me over. At least once a month a driver tries to jump the light, inching forward into the intersection while I'm crossing in front of them at a red light. I try to make eye contact with as many drivers as possible. For whatever reason, some just refuse to see me. Aren't trained to consider that I might be there.

And beyond that, as I've mentioned above, I frequently have to be on foot at or after dusk, if I want to earn any money. Sometimes there just are not sidewalks in the places I need to navigate.) Gaps in public transportation (what we call the problem of the "last mile") mean that I'm frequently walking for upwards of 20 minutes along roads of various qualities.

As for the proportion of walkers and runners who are on the road for health purposes, rather than purely transportation, their choices are often limited as well...by lots of factors (perceived) neighborhood safety, sidewalk maintenance, proximity to home. Sidewalks do not spring up of their own accord. Nor do they reproduce. When sidewalks or running trails do or do not exist, it is because a community chose to have or not have them. Keeping people who are outside of cars "safe" is a task that should not fall solely on the shoulders of those outside the cars. Drivers certainly ought to be held responsible, but so should the rest of society. Remember also, that women jogging are frequently warned to not use parks in the early mornings or evenings. We are told, if your schedule requires that you jog in the low visibility hours, do it in a well traveled place, rather than in a park. Because, you know, don't ask for a groping.
posted by bilabial at 8:13 PM on March 10 [19 favorites]


Factoring in reaction and braking time at 45 miles per hour, the speed Trombly said he was driving, the report estimates the driver had 5.2 seconds to swerve to avoid a collision.

Turning the wheel to shift slightly over into the other lane within 5 seconds seems like it should be possible even for the barely conscious.

One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, five thousand.

Insane.
posted by jaduncan at 8:15 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Oh! And I'm a relatively healthy and mobile youngish person. The blinking red hand (if there is any signal!) pops up usually about halfway through any intersection and has often turned to solid red by the time I'm across. If you have mobility issues, good luck making the whole way across before your time runs out.

We are really doing a bad job of keeping pedestrians safe, here in America. There is hard data about what we could be doing better. On street parking. Narrower lanes that lower the speeds that drivers travel (less passing space makes you feel less safe Feeling less safe makes you drive more slowly. Guess what feeling more safe causes? Speed increases. Which are dangerous.) Pedestrian and driver education.

These things can be done. They are choices we are not choosing. Playing a rousing game of Blame the Victim doesn't solve any of the dangers of...well, anything, actually. It only serves to allow us to feel as though these horrors cannot happen to us. Blaming the Victim occurs when faced with harassment, poverty, injury, illness, domestic violence and is not a new tactic.

And now I'm going to sleep before I get really mad.
posted by bilabial at 8:20 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]


I do a lot of running in the dark, because that's when I can. I run on sidewalks but I still run into situations once a week or so where I have to yield to cars at intersections and crosswalks (where I should have the right of way) to avoid being killed because I know they don't see me, or aren't looking for me. I had someone run a red light and almost hit me (and honked at me!) last week in broad daylight.

If I could ask one thing of drivers: don't roll past stop signs so that you can see when making a right turn. Stop at the stop sign and then creep forward. There might be someone about to step into the crosswalk, assuming you'll obey the law. Look left and right when making a right turn!
posted by ghharr at 8:26 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I ended up playing a game of chicken in my neighborhood with a guy jogging in the street last weekend. My only other options were to come to a complete stop or swerve into oncoming traffic. There are definitely places in Boulder where there aren't good options, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why this guy decided it was better to run at a 7,200-pound truck than use the sidewalk just to his left.
posted by bpm140 at 8:32 PM on March 10


I don't know that jogging at night is more dangerous than jogging during the day, if you have a decent headlight. It's different, that's for sure. But it has some advantages too - with a good headlight I can flash a driver at an intersection and make absolutely, positively sure he notices me; in the daylight, I don't have any way to get people's attention. Oh, and at night, there's usually a lot less traffic.

Also, I'm sick of hearing this guy's age trotted out. 80 years is plenty long to learn not to drive drunk. If a 27-year-old drove drunk with an existing DUI and wiped out an 80-year old pedestrian, they'd absolutely be going to jail with no discussion; not doing it in the opposing situation is just ageist. Honestly, he deserves it more if anything; the 27-year-old would be much less dangerous with the same BAL.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:46 PM on March 10


Interesting that the biggest increase in nonoccupant fatalities in the NTHSA stats is actually motorcycles.
posted by rollbiz at 8:48 PM on March 10


desjardins: "And what do you do with your car? Overnight street parking will get you at best a ticket, at worst towed, and you run a much greater risk of vehicle theft/break-ins in the nightlife districts. I'm not saying I agree with the calculus, but that's how people think. "Hm, nothing happened the last dozen times I had two beers and drove, and it's a $50 cab ride and $20 parking ticket and..." etc"

Here there are companies that will pick you up and drive you home in your own car neatly solving all these issues (besides cost I suppose and that isn't in any way an excuse - don't drive in the first place if you can't get your car home).

And that totally sets aside the DD strategy.
posted by Mitheral at 8:58 PM on March 10


Wow. I'm from the next town south of Champlain. Nearly all the places and last names were familiar to me, but I don't know any of the people, they were either younger or much older than me. But a few of my high school friends worked at the McDonalds in Champlain.

It was a sad story to read. I would have said that the women were pushing their luck a small amount, walking with traffic and at that time of the evening, but I also would have said they should have been safe. I did a fair amount of walking and bicycling in the evening or even after sunset when I was a teenager, and while I felt it wasn't totally safe, I don't really remember a time when I felt like I was in immediate danger. Maybe I was just blissfully ignorant.

One problem is, up there, there are no taxis. They have them in Plattsburgh, but to call for one out of town would have been expensive and inconvenient. There's little public transportation, either, especially at that time of day. It doesn't matter, because everyone owns a car and that's how they get around. But Trombly should have had the sense to recognize that he was too old and too fond of drink, and move somewhere that didn't involve so much driving, maybe close by that bar he owns.

As for the comment about 20,000 people stopping for beers after work, well, that's hyperbole from the defense attorney. There are just about 20,000 people in Plattsburgh, and that's by far the biggest town in the area, and I know my parents and their friends don't drink and drive.

That said, there are people who are going to do that and don't believe there will be consequences, and I don't see an easy solution here. Hopefully Ashley Poissant's death will make some people think twice about it. But attitudes change slowly up there.
posted by A dead Quaker at 9:16 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


I got hit a few weeks ago on my walk home. Too shaken to go after the driver, who drove away. But we made a real devil's bargain and I can't wait till they're gone.
posted by grobstein at 9:33 PM on March 10


Oh! And I'm a relatively healthy and mobile youngish person. The blinking red hand (if there is any signal!) pops up usually about halfway through any intersection and has often turned to solid red by the time I'm across. If you have mobility issues, good luck making the whole way across before your time runs out.

For what it's worth, the blinking hand is for pedestrians the equivalent of the yellow light for cars; it means (see MUTCD) do not enter the intersection now; you don't have time to cross. So it's expected that people will cross while the light is flashing; this is normal. One intersection in my city crossing a major road between the largest mall and a major transit hub has about three seconds of little man time, then about 30 of flashing hand.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:01 PM on March 10


I don't really know if prison is the answer for this guy but for sure I would permanently ban the guy from driving again. there will also be civil consequences.

If he's not phased by killing someone by drunk driving I struggle to see how he is going to be disincentived by a future driving while disqualified charge.
posted by biffa at 12:36 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


I've biked my whole life and I have learned to assume that I am invisible to all cars. For example, when a car is waiting at a driveway to turn out onto the road and the driver is looking away from me, I slow (or even stop) and shout "Hey, look over here!" before proceeding. Annoying as hell, I suppose, but I. don't. care.
posted by telstar at 12:48 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I'm a pedestrian. I have a car, but don't like driving much. I used to cycle, but after I turned 40, with two kids, I thought "why take the risk?"

What really gets me is the sense of entitlement motorists have - a sense of entitlement that skews towards aggressiveness, and, let's face it, the willingness to perform bodily intimidation, assault, and even attempted murder.

One thing I have noticed, though, is that the sense of entitlement is most prevalent amongst Baby Boomers, and those born just before the Baby Boom.

To this demographic, the car is the Perfect Machine, the key cultural achievement, the giver of personal agency and identity.

Try taking the car away from them, or even mention the words "bike lanes" and they go apeshit.

And then try to run you over.

All I am asking is for motorists to obey the 4-way stop around the corner, and stop for pedestrians at the crosswalk up the street.

If they could, could they not drive through a "walk" sign when my son is crossing the street to go to school?

I saw a man hit by a city truck in a marked crosswalk a couple of years ago. He was in a wheelchair. He died and I saw blood trickling from his head on the pavement.

Never made the newspapers.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:49 AM on March 11 [16 favorites]


"In 2012, automobile collisions killed more than 34,000 Americans, but unlike our response to foreign wars, the AIDS crisis, or terrorist attacks—all of which inflict fewer fatalities than cars—there’s no widespread public protest or giant memorial to the dead. We fret about drugs and gun safety, but don’t teach children to treat cars as the loaded weapons they are."

"Though anti-drunk-driving campaigns are familiar to Americans, fatalities involving alcohol only account for around a third of all collisions, while the rest are caused by ordinary human error. Studies also show that reckless drivers who are sober are rarely cited by police, even when they are clearly at fault. In New York City during the last five years, less than one percent of drivers who killed or injured pedestrians and cyclists were ticketed for careless driving."

Murder Machines: Why Cars Will Kill 30,000 Americans This Year
posted by fatehunter at 1:33 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]


It is a mentality of entitlement. People feel entitled to turn at a red light, for example, without stopping. The way that is supposed to work is, you stop, then, if there is nothing in the intersection, you can turn red.
posted by thelonius at 1:39 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


I was looking for a recent vehicular homicide here recently, and was overwhelmed by the number of recent pedestrian deaths.

A few weeks ago, a woman in a pickup truck backed over a 91 year old man with a walker out strolling his neighbourhood; the pedestrian was dragged for 125 metres and the woman drove away, unaware -- I'm sure the next truck ad I see will mention how Dodge Ram trucks have the kind of horsepower you need for towing dead grandpas. She could be fined up to $2K and face 6 months in jail with an additional 3 month license suspension.

If someone operated any other piece of machinery that way, from a factory production line to an airplane to a gun, they would be in jail pending a murder trial.


It is a mentality of entitlement. People feel entitled to turn at a red light, for example, without stopping. The way that is supposed to work is, you stop, then, if there is nothing in the intersection, you can turn red.

It's fascinating -- the only discussion topic I ever read where the public at large argues strenuously that they should be able to break the law with impunity is when people talk about speeding. Even discussions of online pirating usually have a strong IP rights presence, and people who do it at least seem to feel guilty part of the time. No matter that a modest increase in speed has a substantial impact on both your ability to avoid or minimize a collision, and on your lethality to those around you.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:50 AM on March 11


>who has two beers

His blood test showed 0.12 an hour and a half after the crash. That's not two beers.


Everyone says they had "two beers". A recent client of mine blew a .28 and had a blood draw at .30. How much had she had to drink? "Maybe two beers." When I told her that the authorities weren't going to believe that, and that hell, I didn't believe it either, she said "Okay, maybe three or four."

Personally, I'm thinking more like nine, but that's beside the point. The vast majority of criminal defendants facing charges related to drunk driving will cop to "two beers," which in the vast majority of cases is a significant understatement. They're embarrassed and afraid to admit the truth, not only because they think it will mean greater consequences,* but because it will also mean admitting they've got A Problem. Which, I mean, if they didn't have A Problem, they wouldn't have hired me, but whatever.

*The opposite is usually true. A defendant who is candid about how much they were drinking and takes real steps to get help will almost uniformly do better than someone who can't admit to themselves that they're in trouble. Judges and juries tend to think that the latter need some kind of wake up call.
posted by valkyryn at 1:57 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


In a land where they enshrined within the Constitution your right to "freely move about", they are allowed to build roadways, with public money, that only accommodate a form of transportation they have also established, legally, to be a privilege.

USA! USA! Were namber won!!11!
posted by Goofyy at 2:30 AM on March 11 [4 favorites]


Is the DA an elected position? Because that fucker needs to be recalled.

Why, because he actually tries to prosecute DUI cases?
posted by kmz at 3:13 AM on March 11


For what it's worth, the blinking hand is for pedestrians the equivalent of the yellow light for cars; it means (see MUTCD) do not enter the intersection now; you don't have time to cross. So it's expected that people will cross while the light is flashing; this is normal. One intersection in my city crossing a major road between the largest mall and a major transit hub has about three seconds of little man time, then about 30 of flashing hand.


For what it's worth, I know this. The point I was making is that for every light cycle, a pedestrian has, what, 15 seconds to get into the intersection? And another 15 to clear it? I can't enter an intersection just before the blinking hand and safely get across. I must enter right at the start. Otherwise, as a healthy and mobile under 35 year old person I will be killed.

Add to this the obstruction of the right hand turn lane by other cars. I am forces to choose between slowing in front of (still) stopped vehicles to look for assholescwjo intend to take the corner without stopping...and getting out of the way of drivers who are honking at me to get out of the way (or 'inviting' me to perform sexual favors for them.
posted by bilabial at 3:48 AM on March 11


if the signals bother to change anyway

I mostly drive, because suburbs, but I walk as much as I can. Whenever I encounter a WALK signal that never displays, I am reminded what happens when a traffic light malfunctions: police appear, and direct traffic until the light is fixed, which almost never takes more than a couple of hours. When a pedestrian light stops working, no cops appear, and it usually takes months before it's fixed. In the interim, how does a pedestrian know it's still broken? By pushing the button and waiting a full cycle of the traffic light. Then the foot traveler knows he has to risk crossing 'against' the light.

It may not be a culture war, but it's certainly an indicator of where public priorities are.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:59 AM on March 11 [7 favorites]


As a runner, I think about this every time I lace up my shoes. I'm lucky to have access to Central Park, where cars are mostly banned, but it is drilled into me to assume that bicyclists and cars cannot see me, even if I'm wearing reflective gear.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:36 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


There are more people commuting to work, most families are dual-income these days, and there are more recreational road users.

In the Good Ol' Days, before spandex and carbon fiber toys, it would just be kids outside playing who would be killed by careless drivers - increased congestion has basically forced the kids off the streets. You won't find an 8 or 9 year old riding her bike to visit a friend on the next residential street over if the route comes anywhere near a main road of any sort. When I was a kid, this was a daily occurrence, but this was the late '70s. Now, as people are trying to counteract the negative physical effects from a childhood of being told they can't leave the yard, they're being killed as adults, exercising on public roadways their taxes paid for.

Congestion and effortless speed - cars are very good these days, and drive as smoothly at fifty as they used to at 25 - conspire to kill.

Locking up every speeder is not a good solution. Prevention is always cheaper and more effective than cure. Municipalities should go out of their way to incentivize employers to put in place comprehensive telework policies to reduce congestion, and do a much better job of extending transit to residential neighborhoods - including after hours! Regular stops at bars and nightclubs until closing.

I really can't wait until self-driving cars are mainstream. Mid-range cars already have options to parallel park themselves - which is more than I can do on my own - taking the wheel completely from humans will solve a lot of congestion and human-error issues.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:57 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


As far as I'm concerned, the first time you're caught driving drunk you should lose your licence and your vehicle, then and there, for thirty days.

The second time, for a year.

The third time, you're done; no more car, no more licence, and if you're ever found behind the wheel of a car ever again, you go to jail.

Back when I was in high school, one of my best friends had an amazing younger brother. (They were both amazing people actually). Smart, funny, motivated, polite. Extremely giving--volunteered in a couple of different ways. Just an amazing kid all around. He was going places.

One night, he was on his way home. T-boned by a drunk driver at the intersection about thirty or forty feet from his driveway. Killed instantly.

I very, very firmly believe that if you are driving a car impaired and you cause the death of another human being, you should be charged with first degree murder. And never, ever allowed to drive ever again, if you avoid or get out of jail. It is your responsibility to moderate your intake if you are operating lethal machinery.

Driving while chemically impaired should be met with harsh legal sanction. Driving is a privilege, it is not a right, and if you abuse that privilege it should be taken away. Trouble getting to work? Too fucking bad, you shouldn't have gotten behind the wheel drunk. End of story.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:10 AM on March 11 [11 favorites]


a dead quaker: Wow. I'm from the next town south of Champlain. Nearly all the places and last names were familiar to me

I went to Plattsburgh State and there is a small town dynasty mentality that you see family names pop up all over. Trombly, Rabideau, etc. Many active in local politics and significant real estate holdings. This story may have turned out differently if the local cops got a hold of the scene instead of the state police.
posted by dr_dank at 6:25 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


In large part I've arranged my life so far around being a non-driver. When I find myself out in the suburbs, I'm both fascinated and horrified by all the bars that have big parking lots out front. But, I mean, they've got to have those parking lots. It's impossible to get there by any means other than car.

And here's the deal: going out drinking is really, really fun. I can see why people way out in the where-most-Americans-live go out drinking, even when they have to drive to get there and back. Even if every time they do, they're gambling with their lives and the lives of others. It's how people work; we do fun stuff even when it's risky because fun is great.

Aggressively enforcing drunk driving laws, in the bulk of the country, would be effectively equal to reinstating prohibition. And taking away peoples' licenses when they live out in the out is tantamount to house arrest. I don't want to reinstate prohibition or put drinkers under house arrest, because that sounds like no fun at all. I guess if I were putting it slightly more seriously, I'd say that I'd strongly prefer to live in a society where we get to get drunk every so often than a society where we can't. I'd say a society where we get to get drunk every so often is in fact healthier than a society where we can't.

Basically what I'm dancing around here is that the death toll associated with drunk driving shouldn't be thought of as a law enforcement problem, or even, really, as an individual problem. Instead, it should be thought of as an ongoing urban planning emergency.

This is a difficult frame to think in. The phrases "urban planning" and "emergency" don't really sit comfortably next to each other. "Emergency" carries with it the demand that we act with great speed, and "urban planning" carries with it a sense of, like, breathtaking slowness. The "ongoing" adds another layer of conceptual complexity; this emergency, that we have to respond to immediately, has been an emergency for half a century.

But I'm confident in asserting that we're not going to solve the problem of drunk driving until we respond to it as an urban planning emergency instead of as a law enforcement problem or as an individual failing of individual drunk drivers.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:18 AM on March 11 [10 favorites]


bpm140: "I ended up playing a game of chicken in my neighborhood with a guy jogging in the street last weekend. My only other options were to come to a complete stop or swerve into oncoming traffic. There are definitely places in Boulder where there aren't good options, but for the life of me, I can't figure out why this guy decided it was better to run at a 7,200-pound truck than use the sidewalk just to his left."

You know, when someone/thing is blocking your lane, it's okay to come to a stop. Just stop. When the other lane is clear for you to pass by the obstruction, do that. Personally, I can't figure out why people are always trying to serve into my lane and hit me head-on in order to pass a double-parked Fedex truck or whatever. The world is not going to end if you have to pause for a moment.
posted by coupdefoudre at 7:22 AM on March 11 [13 favorites]


dr_dank: I hear what you say about the family dynasty mentality. Although, the town of Champlain has no police department that I'm aware of, and I'm not sure the Rouses Point police would have gotten involved.

One other problem (not specific to this area) is that the best and brightest tend to move downstate or beyond. That leaves some people who could move elsewhere but choose to stay, and a lot of other people who can't or won't get out and sometimes, for instance, get arrested for DWI.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:26 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


And taking away peoples' licenses when they live out in the out is tantamount to house arrest.

So? If you're given a privilege by society and you abuse that privilege, it is generally revoked.

But I'm confident in asserting that we're not going to solve the problem of drunk driving until we respond to it as an urban planning emergency instead of as a law enforcement problem or as an individual failing of individual drunk drivers.

I'm pretty confident that widespread long-term intelligent urban design in North America is a pipe dream. Too much money sloshing around making it really attractive to build condos instead of neighbourhoods, let alone be fine-grained enough to locate bars in walkable areas. Even if you could be that fine-grained, the bars that people want to go to, unless selection is very limited, change over time--and they cluster together for the same reason all businesses cluster together.

We have major, major urban planning problems in North America, and I agree that trying to get them fixed is at an emergency level, because the longer we let stuff wait (or just mindlessly increase density by knocking down everything good about a city and building condos) the worse and more expensive it's going to be to fix.

We can't even get major cities, facing actual imminent problems (e.g. in Toronto the massive overcrowding on the downtown subway line, the desperate need to have started building a relief line a decade ago, and the fact that even if shovels went into the ground tomorrow it would be another decade at least before we saw anything functional, all at a time when downtown is becoming more and more dense with businesses people commute to, and condos they commute from), to knuckle down and do the hard thing. You're saying every tiny little unincorporated township needs to somehow get its act together and zone entertainment and residential more carefully?

Not going to happen.

Beefing up law enforcement of this issue (as in, giving the laws teeth), and continuing the social opprobrium against driving drunk are universal solutions that apply everywhere. You have the right to be happy; you neither have the right to drink alcohol nor to drive. It's up to you to manage your life responsibly so that it doesn't negatively impact the lives of others.

In sixty years we've gone from relatively universal acceptance of driving drunk to it being socially unacceptable in a lot of places. That's a pretty enormous societal leap.

tldr societal problems need societal solutions, not urban planning solutions that only work in some contexts.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:33 AM on March 11 [7 favorites]


"Don't lock him up as punishment. Lock him up so he doesn't kill anyone else."

Yup. This is the flip side of the US's obsession with the criminal justice system being mostly a tool of vengeance and "criminals getting what they deserve." Maybe dude doesn't deserve vengeance, but rehabilitation, prevention and deterrence are tangible societal benefits.

Penal vengeance is just tutti-fruity feel good vibes for tough on crime Americans and when they can't get their good vengeance feelings on, they lose interest. Funny that it's bad to be soft on crime because of liberal values, but it's okay to be soft on crime, despite social utility, when it conflicts with traditionalist conservative values like grandpa, fast trucks and apple pie.

20,000 potential drunk drivers in one area each weekend seems like a pretty good reason to send a hard on crime message of deterrence to me.
posted by Skwirl at 7:59 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I think another key thing to remember here is that it's an 80 year old man who just buried his wife and two daughters in the last six months. That's a level of pain I can't even imagine dealing with. Do I think he should have been DWI? No, not at all, but I do think there are mitigating circumstances, and I don't think sending him to jail forever is the answer. Nor do I think he's a murderer - I think he probably is very tormented by what happened and what he did.

I think something that a lot of people are also failing to consider is what the country is like. I would personally never drive until an hour-per-alcoholic-drink after I finished drinking. But I also live and have lived with areas with great public transit, hotels, parking garages, etc. Out in these small towns, it can be different. Where are you going to go? Sleep in your car, in the winter?
posted by corb at 8:00 AM on March 11


You could always make the personal choice of responsibility and not drink and drive. That's an option.

Oh wait no that's actually the only choice.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:10 AM on March 11 [7 favorites]


corb: I'm sympathetic, but I also wonder what possible scenario would make it so somebody wouldn't be aware they're stranding themselves at the bar if they want to drink but also be responsible.
posted by whittaker at 8:11 AM on March 11


Aggressively enforcing drunk driving laws, in the bulk of the country, would be effectively equal to reinstating prohibition.

Goodness, my backwoods little town must have been shockingly advanced, because we had this newfangled thing called designated drivers and we took turns.

There's absolutely no excuse for driving drunk. Not living in the country, not being old, not having had people in his family die. So sad he had some deaths in his family but he caused a death in Ashley Poissant's family.

He belongs in prison.
posted by winna at 8:19 AM on March 11 [7 favorites]


Note also that the deaths (while no less tragic) happened in 2003, not 2013. They were months before his _first_ DUI arrest, 10 years ago.
posted by kmz at 8:30 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


I don't drive due to eye problems, which also keep me from biking. I have a mile walk from the nearest bus stop each way three days a week and need to cross three streets. At least once in these three crossings someone driving can't wait for me and starts to gun their engine, or just blows past me, barely missing me.

The other two days add on another three-quarters of a mile, and I have to walk across a freeway exit - and roll that around in your head a moment, a two lane exit from a four-lane freeway - and sometimes on that exit people don't even bother trying to stop when turning right even with a red light.

I am, I admit, an outlier. But after close calls where I saw a vision of my once-widowed wife crying over my closed coffin when a pickup came up on the goddamn curb where I was standing and nearly pasted me, I am getting militant over pedestrian rights.

My grandfather was killed in 1973 when a drunk driver in a goddamn garbage truck crossed a line and crushed the Dodge Dart he was driving. I am militantly anti drunk driving, too.

His age doesn't matter to me. Take his license and let him go to jail for murder.
posted by mephron at 8:31 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


Do I think he should have been DWI? No, not at all, but I do think there are mitigating circumstances, and I don't think sending him to jail forever is the answer.

Sorry, nope. He killed a mother and a friend and more basically, a person. He made the choice-- repeatedly-- to get into his car after drinking. He killed someone. There should never be mitigating circumstances--- even though somehow, for drivers, there often are.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:49 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


I don't think I'm in favor of sending 85-year-olds to prison under most circumstances, but there has to be some middle ground between throwing him in the state pen and pretending that this is just an accident. Surely they can come up with some sort of alternative criminal sanction to incarceration.

I just started running outside, after about a year of running on a treadmill at the gym. I can mostly run on a path, but in order to get there I have to walk down a steep hill with a blind turn and no sidewalk. I know to walk against traffic, and most people in my neighborhood are pretty careful when they drive on that road, but it's still scary. I wouldn't do it in the dark, which means that I probably can't run outside in the winter. It makes me really angry that whoever designed my neighborhood didn't think we were worthy of sidewalks. It makes me particularly angry because I live in a working-class neighborhood where most people can't afford gym memberships, and it means that walking and running, which should be affordable ways to get exercise, aren't really safe. I feel like there's kind of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't thing where people are blamed for being sedentary if they don't exercise and then blamed for taking risks if they try to exercise and the crappy infrastructure makes that dangerous.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:32 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


corb: I'm sympathetic, but I also wonder what possible scenario would make it so somebody wouldn't be aware they're stranding themselves at the bar if they want to drink but also be responsible.

I think that honestly, the way that we have of judging BAC - a thing that is almost impossible for a person to know about themselves - is a problematic one. People genuinely don't know how much they can drink for it to be okay, and when. As someone above thread said, some people are probably drunk when they wake up. An eighty year old will have a different reaction to beers than a twenty five year old - which means that legally, the consequences for them driving after the same number of drinks will be different, with no way to quantify how different.
posted by corb at 9:36 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


An eighty year old will have a different reaction to beers than a twenty five year old - which means that legally, the consequences for them driving after the same number of drinks will be different, with no way to quantify how different.

Metabolism isn't actually wildly different though. People like to think they are because they don't believe they are impaired when driving. There are general guidelines that are taught in every school in American (and please don't start the "but this guy is old and did not get those classes in high school!" derail). This guy had a BAC of .12 which was 50% over the legal limit. This isn't "Oh he had a .08 but he's on special medicine..." People who are concerned about this can get individual monitoring devices which will tell them whether they are safe to drive.

This is one of those personal responsibility things. I have a weird metabolism for alcohol and so I don't drive when I've been drinking at all. This is definitely a thing in rural communities where I live where if you get really hardass about people drinking and driving it's essentially consigning people to drink only at home because you have to drive everywhere. That said, the alternatives all suck. There is no public transportation. If people lose their licenses they can no longer work. We get to the situation where you do blame the victim stuff and talk about everyone knowing that the streets are unsafe after X o'clock on weekends and holidays. People can not and do not self-regulate and part of the problem is that we don't treat vehicular homicide the same as regular homicide which I think is the point the original article was trying to make.
posted by jessamyn at 9:49 AM on March 11 [5 favorites]


That's entirely irrelevant, corb.

He deliberately got into a car drunk on multiple occasions. He killed a woman as a direct consequence of doing so.

There is no mitigation. There are no extenuating circumstances. He did something that had as much reckless disregard for human life as pointing a possibly-loaded gun at someone's head and pulling the trigger.

He belongs in jail the exact same way anyone who commits murder belongs in jail.

Again, this is a personal responsibility thing. I though libertarians were big on that.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:50 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


He belongs in jail the exact same way anyone who commits murder belongs in jail.

Murder is a very specific legal term that is even more specific than actual homicide. From the law in my own state, homicide is defined as "conduct which causes the death of a person or an unborn child with which a female has been pregnant for more than twenty-four weeks" So something like this would have been homicide - such as vehicular manslaughter, which is already provided for in the law.

Murder, however, requires intent to kill. It is not just negligence. It is not just reckless disregard for human life. Murder is defined as "With intent to cause the death of another person, he or she causes the death of such person"

When you refer to things like this as murder, you are trivializing cases of actual murder. This was, perhaps, manslaughter. But I can't see how anyone could even conceive of it as murder.
posted by corb at 9:58 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Oh for God's sake.

Enough hairsplitting. He deprived another family of someone they loved. There is no extenuating circumstance for this. He belongs in jail.

Apologias for drunk driving, and you're not the only person doing it here, are sickening.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:02 AM on March 11


Apologias for drunk driving, and you're not the only person doing it here, are sickening.

Easy way to put it: he aimed a couple of tons of metal down a road without having the ability to steer it. This time someone got hit. It really is just because cars are magically a special case that his lawyer is able to act as if that is anything more than manslaughter. It's morally appalling, and he should be criminally culpable for the homicide caused.

Intentionally swerving into someone, that would be murder. Also morally appalling, but a different morally appalling.

Not calling it murder doesn't mean that he shouldn't go to jail or that it's OK to drive drunk, it's just respecting the mens rea test because recklessly killing people and intentionally killing people are and should be different things.
posted by jaduncan at 10:28 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Sometimes, being on a pedestrian trail even isn't enough. From the Missoulian.
posted by ikahime at 10:34 AM on March 11


Threads like this so frequently are ruined by someone making asinine arguments over fine points of grammar or some other aside. It's disheartening.
posted by caddis at 10:37 AM on March 11


The whole "is it murder or merely homicide" thing seems to be splitting hairs a little bit.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:37 AM on March 11


Thank you, corb, for having the decency to remind some of the hotheads here that murder has an accepted legal meaning, and what this irresponsible old fellow did was not it. One trusts that should they ever have find themselves in a position where they have unintentionally taken a life, these legal niceties will become rather more important to them.
posted by Decani at 10:39 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


corb: "I think that honestly, the way that we have of judging BAC - a thing that is almost impossible for a person to know about themselves "

Pocketable personal breathalyzers cost less than $10. These aren't court certified devices but they'll get you a good enough idea to tell whether you should be driving.
posted by Mitheral at 10:41 AM on March 11


[Folks, ease up. If the thread is making you super angry maybe take a walk for a bit and come back to it?]
posted by jessamyn at 10:48 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


I think that honestly, the way that we have of judging BAC - a thing that is almost impossible for a person to know about themselves - is a problematic one. People genuinely don't know how much they can drink for it to be okay, and when.

Why can't they then err on the side of caution? Even a BAC of 0.02-0.05 increases drunk driving risk by a factor of 3; this goes up to a factor of 6 for 0.05-0.08 and a factor of 11 for 0.08-0.10; just below the legal limit is where you're only six times more likely to kill yourself, rather than 11 times more likely. It's not like there's a magic point only detectable by machines where you can be slightly drunk and still drive like a champ, but one drop of alcohol over that means you're a menace to society and people are getting tripped up over that drop.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:03 AM on March 11


maybe take a walk for a bit

what you did, I see it.
posted by banshee at 11:14 AM on March 11 [7 favorites]


Oh god, I totally did not mean that. Sorry!
posted by jessamyn at 11:17 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


The thread is redeemed....
posted by caddis at 11:28 AM on March 11


An eighty year old will have a different reaction to beers than a twenty five year old - which means that legally, the consequences for them driving after the same number of drinks will be different, with no way to quantify how different.

There are volumes of data going back 50 years now linking BAC to compromised driving ability and generally being a hazard on the road.

Some of that data was even posted upthread. At the 0.08-0.12 BAC range, an average person is over 30 times more likely to get into a crash — and that's without any other cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, etc. involved. They're staggeringly more likely to just run their fucking car off the road. The very rare person — assuming such people even exist — who are magically unimpaired by levels of alcohol that would impair mere mortals just have to deal with it. Plus, it's not at all clear that "functional tolerance" (basically, the ability to appear and act sober despite having a high BAC, characteristic of many habitual drinkers) means you can actually drive or conduct other high-coordination activities safely.

While BAC may not be a perfect standard, we tried for decades prior to the introduction of Breathalyzers to keep people from driving drunk using subjective standards like the old walk-the-line / touch-your-nose tests, and it didn't work especially well, even though in theory it should have given people the ability to assess themselves before they got into the car. People are very, very bad at gauging their own ability to drive, or level of drunkenness in general. There's no reason to think that going back to a non-BAC-based standard would be any improvement over what we have today. (Plus, today you can buy a cheap breathalyzer of your own and have it in your car or on your keychain if you're worried. They're not super-accurate but they generally err high.)

Really, the only alternative to the BAC system is to a zero-tolerance/binary system, where you either have alcohol in your system (can't drive) or you don't (can drive), and therefore there's no need to assess your own level of intoxication at all. If you've had something to drink, anything at all, that night, you're done. However — as widely demonstrated in Washington DC, which must have the highest rate of de jure DUI in the country due to the zero-tolerance standard — without behavioral changes and strong enforcement it doesn't seem to actually do much.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:52 PM on March 11 [2 favorites]


The whole "is it murder or merely homicide" thing seems to be splitting hairs a little bit.

Well, not really. A few years ago, North Carolina prosecuted a DUI homicide case as a murder, and sought the death penalty. They lost, which is, I think, good.
posted by thelonius at 4:48 PM on March 11


Jaime Rowley was jogging along Waxpool Road near Claiborne Parkway in Broadlands, Va., when a 61-year-old driver traveling southbound struck her.

She has two children. Her facebook status in Late January was a picture that said "Run with your heart, not with your legs." I went to High School with Jaime.

I've been numb with rage all day.
posted by bilabial at 6:14 PM on March 13 [2 favorites]


No one deserves to be sent to one of our jails. Not even this old murderer. Fine the shit out of him and employ measures to ensure he's never again behind the wheel of a car.

What measures, short of physically confining him, do you think might ensure he's never again behind the wheel of a car? Putting an ignition interlock on his car only prevents him from driving his own car drunk. Taking away his license just means that the next time he drives drunk, he's also driving without a license. Taking away his car just means he has to borrow one from a buddy, or buy another one and not register it. House arrest and tracking anklet? What's the response time for violations of those? Until we can put some kind of ignition interlock on him, jail is the only measure that ensures he's never again behind the wheel of a car.

I mean, maybe not this guy specifically, but habitual drunk drivers in general. This is from a recent multiple-fatality vehicular homicide case up the street from my house:
Investigators believe Mullan’s blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit when he struck the couple. Mullan, 50, was already facing a drunken driving charge out of Snohomish County and had recently been convicted of drunk driving in Seattle.

Mullan tearfully pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular assault, each with DUI enhancements attached that add an extra two years to his sentence. He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of ignition interlock device charge.
And this is in Seattle, where it is possible (albeit inconvenient) to get around via public transit; not out in the county where you need a car or you're stuck at home. Dude had five prior DUIs, was on probation from a recent one, had a suspended license, and hadn't installed the ignition interlock on his truck that one of his previous convictions mandated. What measures would have saved the lives of the two people he killed, and prevented the injuries of their daughter-in-law and ten day old grandson, who were also hit? Sending someone out to check if he'd installed the interlock might have helped, but probably not -- one of his priors was in a buddy's car. (Which, you ask me, should have resulted in his buddy going to jail too.)

Mullan was sentenced to 18 years for the vehicular homicide and assault, and four additional months for not installing the interlock. That's pretty unusual, as far as I can tell. The actual jail time, I mean, not the drunk driver with multiple prior convictions who finally kills someone. That's relatively common.
posted by hades at 12:32 AM on March 18


« Older Blasting into the unknown...   |   Did you say iconic or ironic? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post