I don’t drive as much as I used to. Before the pandemic, I routinely put 30,000 miles on my car every year. Since March of 2020, I maybe put 10,000 miles on the car total. I used to like to drive; now that I don’t do it as much as I used to, I don’t miss it.
It seems to me that when I do drive, folks are more aggressive than they used to be. Maybe I am getting older and slowing down, but I find that I am a lot more defensive than I used to be. Cruise control has become my constant companion.
I had a new case come across my desk last week. It made me a lot more aware of my driving and the ramifications of making a mistake when you are behind the wheel of a car.
We all know that driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is absolutely out of the question. If you drive with alcohol or other drugs in your system and you are under the influence of the drugs or alcohol you will be arrested and charged with a crime. If your operation of a vehicle while under the influence results in the death of another person, you will obviously be facing significant prison time.
But what about if you operate your vehicle negligently without any involvement of drugs or alcohol? If your operation causes the death of another person, you could still face up to three years in prison.
This should be sobering because negligent operation can encompass a number of activities. Speeding, for example, would be negligent if not reckless operation. Fumbling with the radio dial would constitute negligent operation. In fact, any type of distracted driving would be considered negligent operation if not grossly negligent or reckless. The same is true of operating a vehicle with an improperly secured load.
The fact is that when you get behind the wheel, you are solely responsible for the safe operation of that vehicle, and if you fail to drive safely and cause serious injury or death to another, your world will be turned upside down as a result of the tragedy. The law has little sympathy for a negligent driver who causes the death of another.
And the consequences are not simply the possibility of incarceration or steep fines. Your license is likely to be suspended or revoked which would likely lead to a loss of your job. You will lose friends and be shunned by neighbors. You will be drained financially – first in defending yourself, and then in paying for the losses that your victims suffer. Absent insurance approaching two to five million dollars in liability coverage, if you cause someone to lose their life, you are likely going to lose your house and most of your assets.
Once you get convicted of the crime, you will carry that conviction with you like a scarlet letter for the rest of your life. That means that your credit rating will plummet and getting a loan will be expensive or impossible. Employers will be hesitant to hire you because even if the tragedy was a simple accident, your judgment will always be questioned. Life will simply be hard.
I write all this because the case that came across my desk last week scared me and made me sad for the victim and the victim’s family. And it all could have been avoided if more care had been taken. Driving a car is an awesome responsibility. This week as you head out to work, try to remember that. I know I will.