Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pedal To The Metal

There is this phenomena I have encountered over the years out there on the streets.
I wish there were a name for it.
It's something that happens when groups of young people -- usually teenagers, or the twenty- somethingers -- they all crowd into one car as they often do, after a night of partying.

In the true cases I am referring to in this post, it is the occasional person who is the driver that decides -- because he or she is behind the wheel and controls the pedals -- he can drive as fast as he or she wants. High as a kite. Drunk as a skunk. It's all good. And to hell with what the passenger wants. It's all about the driver's need for control.

These drivers think they're in a movie or video game.
They continue to press the accelerator, while all the other people in the car -- the passengers -- are screaming. One... then two... until ultimately, all yell "Stop!"

The fears builds in their voices.
"Dude, chill!"
"What's wrong with you Bro?"
"Slow Down!"
"You're scaring me!"
"Slow the freaking car down."
Then it's a cacophony of "SLOW DOWNNNNN" and screams as the driver is no longer in charge and the car is driving itself and its passengers to self destruction.

In every such case I've investigated, the passengers demanded, then screamed "STOP!"
And in all these cases, the driver ignored them and responded by speeding up and either smirking, smiling, laughing or calling his passengers, weenies or wooses. In every single such case, the driver is transformed into a speed demon, control freak who gets
of on terrified passengers.

Sooner or later physics come into play and between the speed, the road, its construction, curvature, and direction of the vehicle, among countless other variables, it is not the driver, but the out of control car in control.

I had a set of clients once.
They both died with four others when their car crashed into a pillar beneath a freeway south of Seattle. A passenger was videotaping the evening's escapades. She filmed from the back seat of the car.

She also videotaped their death because the camera was running when the car hit the pillar. It gave me and all who saw it a first-hand look inside what goes on insides some drivers' heads when they are under the influence and behind the wheel.

Not all kids can afford cars, so they generally move in swarms linked to one or two people in the hives called cars.

From there, after the sun sets, they join the gaggles of party geese traveling through roads, streets and highways; to parks, parking lots.. and ultimately parties in homes or bars.

Just now I was writing up case notes up about such a case and decided to blog on first.
My client was one such statistic.
She, a single mother, aged 24, got in a small SUV with 6 people in it.

I drew a box on my legal pad and had her put dots on it to indicate where everyone was sitting and who they were. There were four people in the back seat, only two in the back had seat belts. My client Melissa had hers on and was sitting in the front passenger seat.

First they went to Walmart.
Then they went to a local bar "Billies" (a pseudonym) for supper. I asked Melanie how much she had to drink. She said she ordered one drink, shared maybe of half of it. Said she had to get home to her baby.
I asked what she ordered, she said a Shirley temple with Grey Goose.
I laughed and told her that sounded delicious, I would have to try one. A perfect blend of past and present.
"Yeah, " she replied, "it's great. I ordered it and everyone else was drinking it. That's why I only had half."
She finished her drink with her friends who were drinking more. But she wasn't keeping score.

After midnight it came time to drive home. The sister of the man who owned the car asked her is she could drive his car.
Melissa and the other witness heard him say to her, "Okay but my car is easy to flip so you be sure to drive safe."
Melissa said the driver did not act drunk or appear to be drunk and Melissa said she would not drive with a drunk driver.

So they all got in the the car. Four in the back seat, my client, in the passenger front seat next to the driver.

The driver took off -- a bat out of hell. And the passenger clung to their seats and each other, screamed at the driver to slow down. Like in all such cases, the driver did not accept the passengers' advice and invariably slams into something. Hopefully, not another car with people in it. Mostly, I see the ones that went over a gully or cliff, hit a tree, a telephone pole, a building, landed in a river. You name it, chances are good, I've seen it.

In this case, Melissa's, they were on a freeway.
Melissa's driver was going fast, changing lanes. The passengers saw traffic ahead slowing.
They all screamed slow down.
Melissa's driver stepped on the accelerator instead,
Then reality hit some part of the driver's brain and she stepped on the brakes.
That caused the car to flip three times.
It was totalled and so was my client Melissa.

I need to write up her case, because she has two torn vertebrae in her neck and two ruptured disks in her back.
The lawyers need all her information so they can get take off running in the morning.
Meantime, Melissa is not running or walking anywhere.

She has been off work since the May accident.
Although she dodged a bullet, she still sees the glass as half empty.
She was the victim of a reckless driver she once considered a friend. She is terrified of being in cars. She can not hold or lift her 11 month old baby who doesn't understand why mommy has disconnected with her physically.

I tell her what she is entitled by law to: her medical bills; future medical bills; lost wages; pain and suffering. I explained the three year statute of limitations on civil cases such as hers.
She is 24 and may lose a great job, complete benefits.

I anticipate a battle, possibly a war. I suspect the driver's insurance company attorney will contend, she chose to get in the car with a drunk driver.

I ask her about that again. Did she know the driver was drunk?
"Absolutely not" she said adamently.
"I am the single parent of a baby.
I would never put myself in harm's way.
I call cabs all the time.
I did not know the driver was drunk."

Regardless, it happened.
One more case on the concrete sea I navigate daily. Like the police and the fire trucks, paramedics and ambulances, haz mat trucks... the injury attorneys and their private investigators pick up where the police investigation leaves off.

Often the last time the victims of a drunk driver, gun shot, dog mauling, or car wreck, etc., see a police officer is in the hospital room when the officer is getting information for his report. Or in the courtroom when a case goes to trial.
The investigator and the attorney step in, when everyone else steps out.

Tonight's moral is this:

If you have a teenager or a twenty-something...
know or are related to one one...
connected to, work for, or with one...
tell them you have a friend, an investigator, who knows sometimes anyone, especially teens and young adults, tweek, go nuts, act crazy when they are drunk. So never ever get in the car with any driver who has been drinking.

This is an undeniable truth -- people have their own reasons for continuing to deny
their truths.
People who drink enough do go into blackouts and have no conscious awareness of what they are doing, saying, where they are going.
Blackouts... and just poor behavior... cause some drivers to distort themselves into another reality they are playing in the movies in their heads.

They are The Fast and the Furious running the Death Race.
They are players in a make believe reality video that results in real injuries every day.
Smashed heads. Snapped necks. Broken limbs. Severed spinal chords. Torn hearts. Catastrophic head injuries. And deaths.

The number one cause of death today to teenagers and twenties-somethings is not drugs or alcohol anymore.
It's car accidents.
And I have seen enough of them to learn average, every day looking people, young and old, turn into demons when they get behind the wheel.

Young people who think drinking adds to the cool or the loose factor, don't grasp the concept that alcohol (which is now being added to a whole new line of energy drinks targeted at teens and young adults), is a drug heavily marketed to them by liquor companies and state liquor boards.

The objective is to get teenagers to drink and associate that drinking with a good time.
Then, if they drink enough, just like cigarettes, the physiologically addictive ingredients of the substance and then the psychological behaviors associated with it, take hold until the addiction is complete. And the media, advertisers and government have an on-going source of revenue thanks to said addiction. Which keeps the jails and rehabs very busy.

The driver of the vehicle Melissa was double the limit in Washington. Yet to witnesses in the bar and car, she seemed just fine. And that's no surprise to me, because the more addicted one is to a substance, the more normalized he appears on it to an unsuspecting eye. And if you get one of those loony tune drivers, who has a lead foot when it comes to the accelerator and a deaf ear when it comes to the passengers, the combination is combustible.

Be ever vigilant.

No comments:

Post a Comment