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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Criminal Stupidity: Legislating Against Folly

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

There are a host of laws on the books designed to protect people from each other, and sometimes, ourselves.  They run the gamut from drunk and disorderly, to murder.  In most cases they are perfectly adequate for that task.  However, in recent years we have seen an inordinate amount of human actions that defy logic or sanity.  There’s even a popular website called “The Darwin Awards” that celebrates “…those who assist natural selection by removing themselves from the gene pool.” 
The Internet brings the opportunity for immortality to everyone with a video camera, unfortunately, spurring some people to undertake acts of high, even fatal risk.  It’s bad enough when these things happen in isolation, and the only one affected is the risk-taker.  But it seems that increasingly such acts now occur in public places where innocent bystanders are affected.
I track reports of motorcycle accidents on one of my blogs, not out of any gothic fascination, but with the idea that all riders can learn from accidents.  Knowledge is not only power, it increases the likelihood of survivability.  Most involve other vehicles, drivers turning left or pulling out in front of an approaching motorcycle.  But recently, some accidents have occurred for which the blame has to be placed solely on the motorcyclists’ risky behavior.

Castro Valley, CA -- 54-yo rider operating his bike in a reckless manner was ordered to pull over by police.  Rider refused, leading police on a chase.  The rider ran two red lights before hitting a semi, dying instantly.

Aurora, CO -- Two motorcycles were racing, hitting speeds of 100 mph before one bike collided with a sedan, killing the rider and seriously injuring the driver.  The other bike, carrying a male rider and female passenger, fled the scene initialy, but returned in their car to check on the first rider.  At that time, police ascertained their involvement, field-tested the second rider and arrested him for drunk driving.

West of Puyallup, WA -- 24-year-old rider, speeding at over 100 mph, was killed when he collided head-on with a sedan, tearing the bike in half and ejecting the rider 440 feet through the air from the collision.

Los Angeles Metro, CA -- 23-yo rider and a 29-yo rider were speeding and weaving through traffic on the I-10 freeway when the 23-year-old rear-ended the other rider, causing both to crash.  The 23-year-old was killed, the 29-year-old seriously injured.  The California Highway Patrol says both were intoxicated.

Most riders are safe, sane, and law-abiding.  Let's make that clear up-front.  But we all know someone who doesn't fit that description.  In their honor, I'd like to propose a new statute.

This law would apply not only to errant motoryclists, but everyone who engages in behavior that is far removed from rationality and safety.  Like the two guys who tried to make a rocket by filling a barrel with four gallons of methanol, attaching a fuse, and lighting it.  The barrel blew up, killing one and putting the other one in the hospital.

Or the two girls who decided to swap seats while driving at highway speed by climbing through the sun roof.  One fell off and died.

These incidents sound funny, but people who do these types of things put the rest of us at risk, and should be subject to a special law just for them.

Such a statute could have only one name:  Criminal Stupidity.

The legal definition might specify behaviors that increase the risk of injury or mortality not only to the participant, but to the lives, well-being, and property of those around them.  The results of such acts should have incurred government expense for law enforcement and emergency services.

The penalties would vary, depending on whether the act was a misdemeanor or felony, but they would have to be stiff enough to deter foolish behavior.

It could also be an additional charge in cases where a person with multiple DUIs in their past knowingly gets drunk, drives drunk, and collides with something or someone, causing damage, injury, or death.  You could also apply penalties to people who knew the person was drunk, knew they were going to try to drive, and did nothing to stop them.  Or in cases where one or both parents abuse drugs in the presence of their children.

The possibilities are endless, since this would be a highly elastic law.

There's an old saying, "Being stupid is not a crime."  I disagree, since most stupid behaviors are deliberate actions, the result of planning and execution by people who really do know better.

And they will always freely admit that.

But not until afterwards
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