October 23, 1997


Image of today's outrage

Penny Hill did everything right.

She put her four-year-old son Malcolm in the back seat of her Mazda and strapped him in a seat belt after she picked him up from a day care center in suburban Washington. She had a green light when she turned left onto Nutley Street. Then an airbag popped up in her face and her son was dead. Just like that. She never saw what hit them.

What hit them was Robert Grinnan, driving a pick-up truck. Grinnan was drunk. He was also driving with a suspended license. He was not injured in the crash that killed Malcolm Hill.

Grinnan, 33, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, driving while intoxicated and driving with a suspended license.

INVOLUNTARY manslaughter? He CHOSE to get drunk, he CHOSE to get behind the wheel, he CHOSE to drive with a suspended license -- and it's involuntary when the inevitable happens and he kills someone?

If Grinnan can post $22,500 in bail he's free to leave jail. We assume he'll soon be behind a wheel again.

Penny Hill is, of course, just one of tens of thousands who lose family members to drunk drivers every year. And the drunks usually walk away unscathed.

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn has compiled a list of recent drunken driving incidents. It goes something like this:

  • Drunk driver Michael Flores drives into the back of a van carrying a group home from a high school volleyball game. All six passengers in the van die. The passenger in Flores' car dies. Flores is fine.
  • Ivan Morales is drunk and driving 94 mph in a 35 mph zone. The car he hits contains two girls, one 16, one 12. Both are killed. The passenger in Morales' car is killed. Morales breaks his leg.
  • Elizabeth Diver is drunk when she takes her son to band practice. She kills the driver of the car she crashes into, as well as her own 12-year-old son. She suffers a broken arm.
  • Randy Breshan is drunk when he plows into a car carrying four members of a family, all of whom are wearing seat belts. All four family members die. Breshan, who was not wearing a seat belt, is treated for knee injuries.
  • Etc.
But the ultimate example occurred in May of 1988, when a drunk driver in Worthville, Kentucky drove the wrong way down an interstate and hit a school bus. 27 people died. The drunk driver survived.

Not only does the court system NOT keep drunk drivers off the road, but sometimes nature itself seems to conspire against justice. Drunk drivers hit their victims head-on, and thus get the full protection of safety equipment and the "cushion" of the front part of their vehicle. The victims are hit wherever the drunk happens to hit them. In the same way, a battering ram suffers less damage than the object it batters.

Being drunk also saves drivers from tensing their bodies at the time of impact. Studies have shown that in an accident it's safer for the body to be limp than rigid.

These explanations are probably very little comfort to Penny Hill. All she can ask is, "If I did everything right, how come my child's dead?"

(Source: Washington Post.)


 Quote of the Day!

'Tis not the drinking that is to be blamed, but the excess.

-- John Selden, "Table Talk," 1689

© Copyright 1996-98, The Outrage is produced by Athens New Media. All rights reserved.

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