In an article about a woman who killed her child while driving impaired, Candace Litghner (WE SAVE LIVES and Founder of MADD) asked the following question: “Do you think 9 years is enough for a woman who killed her own child while driving drunk? Although I don't have all the details such as did she have prior convictions, etc. apparently not everyone agrees with the sentence. This mother, in my opinion had driven drunk many times before and I am wondering why she was allowed to have her child in the car. Surely other family members knew she had a problem and could have prevented this tragedy. What do you think?”
Most people on her social media responded with outrage over this woman’s conduct.
I'll look at this in a way that others generally don't at least say out loud. I could spend time expressing a sense of outrage like so many already have done here, but it would be repetitive and only serve the problem. We have been serving the problem for so long; I think we've lost our minds, becoming blind with anger. "“This defendant owed her highest duty of care to her five-year-old daughter, Macklyn Lucas. But instead of protecting her, the defendant made the decision to drive with a blood alcohol content more than twice the legal limit. It’s not a mitigating circumstance when a mother kills her own child by driving drunk; It’s an aggravating factor when a defendant places her own child in harm’s way,” said Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd.""
Not one word was about the mother's state of mind, mental health, or intention made its way to the judge’s attention. She might have been self-medicating depression through drinking, as so many people do. To add grief over killing her child to the preexisting depression could result in suicidal ideations. She might kill herself, that or end up trying to continue treating her pain through even more drinking.
That the 'system' fails to respond to her real issues might result in another fatality, either that of herself or another victim in a drunk driving tragedy. I know of MANY people, wonderful people, who have operated their vehicle under the influence of alcohol, who fortunately only had a DWI. I know a man who I used to speak with in MADD for about a decade. His wife was killed on the street in front of their house by a drunk driver. He started drinking at some point and eventually stopped speaking for MADD. Sadly, he WAS IN THE NEWS for getting a DWI, notwithstanding the tragedy that transpired in his own life. IMO, he needed treatment for alcoholism and the grief work that attends comprehensive therapy. Had he killed someone, a judge may or may not have sent him to prison, who knows. But if a person goes to jail WITHOUT treatment on the inside, we are feeding the problem and not the solution.
When we love each other back to health, rather than pretending to punish people back to health, we have a chance to heal our country from the epidemic of impaired driving. I know a woman who "disappeared" after killing her six-month-old baby while driving impaired. Instead of drinking LESS after killing her baby, she drank MORE. The self-punishment, self-loathing didn't heal her. The public outrage didn't heal her, and the legal system didn't heal or treat her.
Sometimes, Even the BEST among us get behind the wheel after drinking. ANYONE can paint an ugly picture while adding alcohol and grief together. Unresolved grief and alcohol abuse are killing “us.” WE are in this together, and no one is special enough to think they wear a superman cape and fly in judgment above the rest of us.
Here’s one possible thread of a solution. With the advent of a first DWI, a person should go into treatment IMMEDIATELY. Unfortunately, that's typically impossible in any case where a person pleads NOT GUILTY. But it used to be impossible to take a license before a conviction of DWI, but that changed. If we take it seriously, rather than self-medicating on "Blame & Rage," we have a good start in eradicating impaired driving. Listen if the mere rendition of horror stories and the attending outrage were sufficient to stop drunk driving, we would have kicked butt on this problem shortly after MADD started offering Victim Impact Panels to DWI offenders. I started speaking on MADD Panels in January of 1991. It's time to do what works. If you LOVE someone, you won't harm them. If you LOVE yourself, you won't place yourself in harms' way. But when drinking, the conscious expression (behavior) of love is 'impaired.' We love, but the alcohol says, 'I don't care.' The number one killer of children who die in drunk driving crashes in our country is committed by who? The ones who love the children the most. The parent/s. But while drinking, perceptions change. The intent and ability to love become constructively irrelevant.
Here’s a possible knot in the tread I mentioned earlier. The liquor industry and the vehicle industry might join forces to help taxpayers to pay for installing breath monitors in new every vehicle in the country. Expensive, yes, but far less costly than dealing with drunk driving injuries and fatalities. Besides, it's not just about costs and profits. Within a decade, I bet impaired driving tragedies will have significantly reduced through this plan. With used cars, it’s more complicated legally, perhaps, to have poor people pay for installing monitoring, but maybe we can legislate funding even for this project for public safety. Focusing on true solutions instead of spinning our wheels in the same old ditches of outrage will make our streets safer.