Earlier this week in Novato, CA, a 9 year old girl was killed and her Dad is in critical condition (after having his leg amputated). The cause? A drunk motorcyclist named Edward Schaefer hit them while they were crossing the street in a crosswalk. Apparently, another vehicle had appropriately stopped to yield to the child and her Dad in the crosswalk. Schaefer did not. Media outlets have reported (and who knows how accurate it is) than Schaefer pulled around the stopped vehicle and then hit the child and her Dad.
Why am I bringing this up? Probably not for the reason you’d suspect. Yes, I think Schaefer is a piece of shit and I’d want his head on a platter if it was my family. However, my point in shining a light on this is the media’s use of the phrase “DUI accident”.
Here are the definitions of both collision and accident from dictionary.com:
1. the act of colliding; a coming violently into contact; crash: the collision of two airplanes.
1. an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap: automobile accidents.
Here’s my issue. The use of the word ‘accident’ is inappropriate based on Schaefer’s being under the influence. When you’ve made the decision to drive while intoxicated, there is nothing unintentional about the happening. Undesirable? Check. Unfortunate? Damn straight. Unintentional? Hell no.
The other problem with the use of the word ‘accident’ is the use the defense can make of it during a trial, be it civil or criminal. If you can convince one nimrod on a jury the incident was indeed an accident, the odds of the responsible party being found culpable are severely diminished. More so in a criminal trial, of course, since you need a unanimous decision. If you get a defense attorney with half a brain (insert your own lawyer joke here), it wouldn’t be too difficult to make the leap to “Hey, we’ve all made mistakes. It was just an accident. He didn’t do it purposefully. He had no intention of hurting anyone.”
I feel confident saying everyone knows how dangerous drinking and driving is. If you’re bright enough (and it doesn’t take much) to drive a car, you’re bright enough to figure out the possible consequences. It’d be like getting cancer after having smoked for 50 years and claiming you didn’t know smoking could harm you. You know, you just accidentally got fucking cancer. Come on…you expect me to buy that?
Of course the media is not responsible for the defense of Schaefer. And, allegedly, they are unbiased (sssuuuurrrreeee, they are…wink, wink). I get that they don’t know the ins and outs of the criminal justice system, but some things just bug me and this is one of them. Using ‘accident’ puts you in a certain frame of mind that, more often than not, isn’t the accurate one.
‘Collision’ or even ‘crash’ is much more appropriate and accurate. You can’t deny a collision happened…and with tragic results. To even entertain the idea that the incident was an accident is offensive to the memory of the little girl and her now one-legged Daddy who will never get to hold her again.