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Archive for the ‘DMV and driving’ Category

I was curious about drunk driving in California and wondered what I could find on the internet which might shed some light on this nation-wide problem. Finding some information, I did feel a little disappointed that statistics on one particular site hadn’t been updated since 2006. Perhaps statistics don’t change much. What I did notice, however, were pages and pages of attorney’s advertising to defend the drunk driver. I found that interesting and yet a little troubling. I realize that everyone is guaranteed due process, but it was almost as if there was more concern for the intoxicated driver than for the those who might be victim to his/her recklessness, so I surfed a few more sites.

Finding more statistics, but of another nature, the new page calculated that three out of every 10 people will have an encounter with a drunk driver at least once in their lifetime. Nearly one third; that’s a lot of people whose lives can, are and may be altered by the recklessness and selfish act of drinking and driving. Recalling my youth, and another accident, I realized this was my second encounter involving the deadly practice.

A boy friend (I’ll call him Hank) of my oldest sister, Polly, had an adorable small car, a very pre-war (WWII) model coupe with a rumble seat. One evening Polly and Hank invited me, a friend and my other sister, Janet, for a ride, and we got to sit in the rumble seat.  We were so excited – as that was the absolute desire of our hearts. The three of us – I was 11, Janet 14, and my friend 12 – wedged ourselves into the tiny opening located where most cars have trunks. With Polly and Hank in the front, we sped down the hill from where we lived, the wind already blowing our hair in every which direction. Laughing, we soon came to one of San Francisco’s main southern thoroughfares; and at our point of crossing it was a very wide section of what was then Army Street. With the traffic light in our favor, Hank ventured forward only to notice one lone car’s headlights coming straight toward us crashing broadside into the sturdy little car. The three of us in the rumble seat bumped our heads together a few times, our tight fit into the seat no doubt holding us in place. Running the red light, the driver of the other vehicle and his lady friend were both drunk.

Hank called my father and the police from the corner store and we waited for dad on the sidewalk. Hank and Polly dealt with the accident and police report, while my dad took the three of us home. Our adventure was short-lived, and other than a good couple of knots on our heads we were all just fine.

Drunk driving is nothing new and has probably been around since before Henry Ford’s Model A; a timeless problem unresolved.  By comparison, the state is totally on top of people having a disease which might have an affect on their driving, but it seems they can’t get a firm and lasting grip on driving under the influence of mind-altering substances.

Upon the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Ken’s neurologist told us that by law the DMV must be informed of his condition. That was in January and by March, he received his letter requiring that he be retested. We both felt confident as Ken had renewed his license less than a year before and had passed with flying colors. However in just eight short months deterioration of his memory was becoming evident. Watching him from across the room at the DMV, I could see the puzzled look on his face. Undoubtedly, as he read the multiple choices, he had already forgotten the question.  He failed the written test so miserably they disallowed him taking a driving test. His license was revoked – forever.  He hasn’t driven since March of 2005.  Actually, that was a good thing; better the DMV than me concluding he was no longer a responsible driver.

My daughter, Julie, and I talked about the statistics and the many problems of people driving under the influence. The term DUI covers not only alcohol, but drugs, legal or not, or any other substance which might impair one’s driving ability, and yet many driver’s believe they are the exception. “Legislate more laws,” was Julie’s answer. “They don’t obey the ones already on the books,” I answered, adding that I had listened to young and old alike who carried a medical marijuana card and believed it gave them special permission to drive immediately after dragging in a few puffs of pot to dull their pain.

Back on the internet, one site claimed that sobriety checkpoints and other enforcement tactics would help, especially around holidays; and more education. When people know better they do better. “Sometimes,” was my answer.  Another page suggested, “If you want to do something about drunk driving, get involved.” Candice Lightner became involved when her 13-year-old daughter was killed by not only a drunk driver, but a hit-and-run drunk driver (who was eventually caught). He was 47 years old.   My drunk driver is in his late 50s. They were both old enough to know better.

Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving: MADD which has become a national organization. Through legislation, education and enforcing legal age drinking MADD claims to have dramatically reduced drunk driving. Yet, if you happen to be a statistic, it doesn’t matter what the reduction. For me, being a victim is 100 percent. So what can possibly help us as a state and as a nation in ridding our streets of drunk drivers? Being involved, enforcement, education or more legislation – or what? “It’s a conundrum,” concluded Julie, “It’s a conundrum.”

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