Perhaps by now you have all heard the name Ethan Couch or better known by his legal defense for killing a whole bunch of people called “Affluenza.”
Never heard of it? Neither had I, but this young man was accused of killing four people, three in his truck and one outside. According to police he was totally sloshed at the time and therefore not fully responsible.
I had a friend, long departed, named Richard Essen who was an attorney noted for defending DUI cases. For many people, especially those who suffered tragedies of their own, this man was considered evil. For others who simply left a wedding or bar mitzvah after having a few too many glasses of wine and as a result drove impaired and caused an accident, possibly killing or maiming someone, it was different.
Attorney Essen believed, as is the law, that everyone deserves a fair trial and a good defense. His defense in almost every case was that the perpetrator did not set out that day to go out and injure anyone through his misdeeds and therefore was entitled to a light or no sentence. I was able to buy into that on most occasions until I read, as most of you have, about Ethan Couch.
Ethan’s attorneys used the defense not heard of before called “Affluenza” in which his parents had spoiled him to the point that he no longer felt responsible for his actions and that, because of the wealth of his parents, anything could be solved by their wealth.
A little history: Ethan was allowed to live in his own magnificent home where he had frequent parties with huge amounts of liquor and drugs being distributed. His folks somehow allowed for this. To show what good parents they were they allowed Ethan to begin driving to school at the age of 13, because they thought he was a responsible young man and should be allowed to drive despite whatever the laws may call for.
Ethan claimed that it was unfair to punish him because he had never been punished before. In an interview on 60 Minutes, his parents, now split, admitted to never having disciplined him. The judge in the case, now retired, thank God, sentenced him to probation instead of the 20 years sought by the prosecutors. Because he was unable to comply with the no alcohol terms of his probation, his mother thought it best that they move to Mexico rather than allow him to face punishment.
This is just one case that took place in Texas.
In reading the local Miami newspapers it seems that almost every day we read of horrific accidents, most times caused by drunken drivers. For the life of me I cannot figure out how people could get on to I-95 headed in the wrong direction. I think if I were challenged with that task I would fail. I simply do not know how it could be done yet many people have been killed just in the past several weeks from drivers doing just that.
Bicyclists, of which I am one, now ride in fear for their lives because of drivers either drunk or texting or talking on their cell phones. Most of the miscreants, rather than stop and offer assistance just keep going with the hope that no one saw anything. In most cases they are wrong, and end up in front of a judge faced with much more serious crimes than careless driving.
Recently, an altercation took place in which a woman blasted her horn at someone who turned in front of her. This happens to me all the time. Usually it’s because I made an effort to get into a line of traffic that seemed unending. I would think the normal thing to do might be slow down and allow this person into line. Big deal! So you will arrive at your destination one car length later.
That horn is one of the most infuriating things I deal with on a day-to-day basis but it seems to be something that is much more common in Dade County and elsewhere. The driver who was blasted by the horn yelled out to the female in the other automobile “where are you from?” The inference being that the driver was probably from one of the countries in Latin America where many Dade County drivers originate. I am not sure whether this is an attitudinal problem or perhaps they just can’t read our road signs because they are in a foreign language, to them.
I have traveled and driven in many countries of the world and seldom have difficulty understanding their road signs with one major exception. My navigator and I were driving through Germany at a very high rate of speed, as everyone else does, but I noticed that every single exit that we passed had a sign pointing to the same city, Ausfahrt.
Being curious I asked my navigator where this Ausfahrt was and she claimed it wasn’t on the map. Being the patient, loving, understanding, driver that I am, I screamed at her that it must be on the map if every road goes there. When we arrived at our hotel the clerk informed me that Ausfart was the German word for exit. I have still not been forgiven for that.
Back to the more serious issues.
My town of Cutler Bay, in its effort to keep traffic moving smoothly, has installed several traffic circles — or rotaries as they are known up north — which in theory allow cars to keep moving even at a slower pace, rather than stopping for interminable red lights. The trouble is, that many drivers that I suspect are from out of the country, view these traffic circles as a place to race to before anyone else gets into the circle and then either crashing or blowing their horn to tell the other person that “hey, I was here first.”
That is not the way it is supposed to work. A little bit of courtesy when you’re in doubt such as waving the other person ahead will go a long way towards avoiding accidents and perhaps even getting a thank you from the other driver.
As serious as these problems are, I think they can be addressed by just a little bit of common sense. Happy New Year to all of you out there and make your resolution now to become a friendlier, safer driver.
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