Eas­ing up on drunk-driv­ing law a bad idea

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO -

On Dec 27, 2014, cy­clist Tom Palermo, a fa­ther of two young chil­dren, was run over by a drunk driver near Bal­ti­more, Mary­land in the United States. Rid­ing on a road with a broad shoul­der, far from traf­fic, he was left to die as the driver sped away.

The driver, a bishop in the Epis­co­pal Church, fled to her home. But, for­tu­nately, an­other bike rider was able to fol­low her and re­port her lo­ca­tion to po­lice. Turns out she had a blood al­co­hol level three times the le­gal limit and was also tex­ting at the time she killed Palermo.

She had been stopped by po­lice for drunk driv­ing four years be­fore — again with a high blood al­co­hol level and with an al­most fin­ished bot-

This Day, That Year

tle of whisky and a mar­i­juana pipe in the car. Amaz­ingly, no charges were filed; she con­tin­ued as a bishop, and, ob­vi­ously, con­tin­ued driv­ing. If she had not been so con­nected and priv­i­leged, she might have gone to prison that time, and Palermo would still be alive.

For the wan­ton killing, she did re­ceive a pun­ish­ment of seven years, which seems too lit­tle. The court con­cluded that she “showed no re­morse and took no re­spon­si­bil­ity for her ac­tions”.

In my home coun­try, the US, penal­ties for drunk driv­ing are cer­tainly too lax. The drunks gen­er­ally keep driv­ing un­til they kill some­one.

In 2011, China en­acted leg­is­la­tion that made it a crim­i­nal of­fense to drive with a blood al­co­hol level above 80 mil­ligrams per 100 milliliters. Ac­cord­ing to Xin­hua, the num­ber of drunk driv­ing cases fell 40 per­cent in the year fol­low­ing the new legis- la­tion. Still, ran­dom breath sur­veys in two south­ern cities showed 4.5 per­cent of driv­ers had a blood al­co­hol level above 200 mg per 100 ml of blood, far above the le­gal limit.

So, I was dis­mayed by a guide­line is­sued in May by the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court that said “of­fenses that cause very lit­tle harm to so­ci­ety should not be con­sid­ered crimes, and thus be ex­empt from the penal­ties set out for dan­ger­ous driv­ing in the Crim­i­nal Law,” as re­ported in China Daily.

With all due re­spect, I can­not un­der­stand the mean­ing of this. If some­one shoots a gun into a crowd and hap­pens not to hit any­one, shouldn’t that be pun­ished se­verely?

Of course, drunk driv­ers are not the only killers. In April, ac­cord­ing to China Daily, a speed­ing taxi in China’s He­nan prov­ince ran over a woman, then left the scene of the ac­ci­dent. A minute later, she was hit again by a speed­ing SUV.

This kind of thing hap­pens all over the world. Most driv­ers are care­ful peo­ple who have re­spect for hu­man life. But, there is some­thing about be­ing be­hind the wheel of a car that brings out the in­ner psy­chopath in oth­ers.

The only way to pro­tect peo­ple is by strict en­force­ment of the laws, and by build­ing roads de­signed to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble users, such as walk­ers and bik­ers.

Noth­ing will bring back the fa­ther lost by his chil­dren, but it’s past time to say enough is enough. Get these killers off the road.

Contact the writer at david­blair@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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LIU YINGYI / FOR CHINA DAILY

Chil­dren play in a vil­lage in the Guangxi Zhuang au­ton­o­mous re­gion on Mon­day.

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