No ac­ci­dent

The Compass - - Editorial -

This is an edi­to­rial that shouldn’t have to be writ­ten. Then again, it’s plainly clear that there are peo­ple among us who still haven’t got­ten the mes­sage, so here we go again. Last Tues­day, 67-year-old Ge­orge Whalen was sen­tenced to seven years in pri­son for three charges aris­ing from his role in the drunk-driv­ing crash that killed Jane Ne­whook.

You can’t call it an ac­ci­dent, be­cause there was far too much de­lib­er­a­tion for it to be in any way ac­ci­den­tal.

Whalen drank a dozen beer and a half a flask of rum at a lo­cal ball field be­fore get­ting be­hind the wheel. Af­ter the crash, he tried to walk away from the scene to­wards his home, car­ry­ing still more beer and show­ing lit­tle heed for the woman he had just killed.

Whalen made the de­ci­sion to drive drunk, and Jane Ne­whook paid for it.

It was not Whalen’s first con­vic­tion by a long shot: he has six pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions for driv­ing while im­paired, and an­other for re­fus­ing the breath­a­lyzer. He was driv­ing with­out a li­cence when the most re­cent crash oc­curred. Es­sen­tially, he is liv­ing proof that there are those among us who are close to in­cor­ri­gi­ble.

Even the judge in the case agrees that it was only a mat­ter of time un­til Whalen’s be­hav­iour killed some­one, say­ing it was “noth­ing short of a mir­a­cle that he has not hit some­one be­fore.”

The prob­lem now is how to keep him from hit­ting some­one else. The plain truth of it is that Whalen should never be al­lowed be­hind the wheel of an au­to­mo­bile again, but it’s proven hard to make that hap­pen.

The likely out­come? Some years down the road, af­ter he gets out of pri­son, a man who has so far failed to learn a set of se­ri­ous les­sons will prob­a­bly end up back be­hind the wheel il­le­gally, and, if his­tory is any guide, will be im­paired.

Peo­ple can, of course, change. Whalen has shown no sign of that abil­ity at this point.

He’s not the only one.

There seems to be a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple for whom the con­sump­tion of al­co­hol is ef­fec­tively a re­lease of all re­spon­si­bil­ity - whether they in­tend to drive when they start to drink or not, they clearly lose the abil­ity to dis­tin­guish the dan­gers they cause by driv­ing.

There comes a point where the ques­tion for judges, when set­ting a proper crim­i­nal sen­tence, shouldn’t fo­cus on re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, and should in­stead look di­rectly at pro­tect­ing the pub­lic.

Whalen, and oth­ers like him, are a real danger, and or­di­nary cit­i­zens should not have to face his par­tic­u­lar game of al­co­holic Rus­sian roulette. If he’s a danger when he’s out on the streets, he shouldn’t out on the street.

There are dan­gers enough on our roads with­out him.

— This edi­to­rial orig­i­nally ap­peared in The Tele­gram

Some years down the road, af­ter he gets out of pri­son, a man who has so far failed to learn a set of se­ri­ous les­sons will prob­a­bly end up back be­hind the wheel il­le­gally, and, if his­tory is any guide, will be im­paired.

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