I probably spend too much time on facebook, I think most people do these days. Yesterday as I went through the status updates, event invites, pictures and other random stuff I came across a post by a local radio personality. Last year she was hit by a drunk driver on her way to work she was injured badly and as most car accident victims she was affected. Well her status explained that the man who hit her was sentenced without anyone giving her notification so she could make her victim statement and the punishment for the man who nearly took her life was probation. This brought up a whole variety of emotions for me.
First was empathy, I’d been where she was. When I was 17 my family was hit by a 19 year old kid who was drunk and high on cocaine. Due to a bunch of legal maneuvers and flat out bullshit from both the DA’s office and the insurance companies we received nothing, no assistance for medical bills (and they were substantial), nothing. And then to make things just that much more fun we found out the person who nearly killed my entire family was tried and sentenced without the court giving us any notification. The best part of all of this is he was convicted of one charge of drunk driving. No mention of the accident or the lives he changed. I could relate so clearly to this local radio personality.
The second thing I felt was anger, a white hot anger. I thought I had dealt with the anger I had concerning this entire incident. I was wrong. The accident affected me a lot. I became car and driving phobic. I was 17 when we were hit and I didn’t drive until I was 22. I had panic attacks, severe anxiety, nightmares and at the root of all of that was the anger. Anger that we never even got a chance to speak, to tell the court what that kid did to us. Anger that we were all hurt, all affected and it seemed to matter to no one in our justice system. Reading about what happened to the radio personality reminded me I have not yet dealt with all of the anger I feel.
The third thing I felt was sadness. I thought about what my family went through and thought about what her family must have gone through when they got that phone call saying she’d been hit. I thought about the scars on my brother’s face and all of the dental surgeries he has to look forward to. I thought about how paralyzed I was by fear, how sometimes that fear still creeps up on me and I am once again paralyzed.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about car accidents and how each one I’ve been in has affected me. In the summer of 2010 I was t-boned while making a left turn. It was scary, I got hurt, my car was totaled, however it was an accident. A real accident. When someone gets in the car and drives while they are intoxicated and hits another person it is not an accident. I think that’s what makes me so angry, is the justice system treats it like it’s an accident. When you hurt someone or kill someone because you chose to drive drunk it ought to be punished harsher. New Mexico’s drunk driving laws are a joke, sure they’ve gotten tougher but they’re still a joke. We have so many repeat offenders it’s ridiculous. I truly believe if you hurt someone or kill someone because you drove drunk you deserve jail time, not probation and not community service. Maybe that sounds harsh but after being the victim of a car accident caused by a drunk driver and seeing the impact it made on our lives and also having to learn to accept that we got no justice I think DUI offenders deserve jail time.
Because of my experience with the justice system I have zero faith in it. If it can let a person off with essentially no punishment after that person seriously injured five people there is no justice.