Easing up on drunk-driving law a bad idea
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.
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Children play in a village in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region on Monday.