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Zane Fischer, in his “Social Diffusion” article, writes that Scott Owens, if found guilty of vehicular homicide and sent to prison, will be robbed “of the opportunity to take responsibility” for driving drunk and killing four teenagers on June 28. Further, Fischer posits that our criminal justice system routinely substitutes “societally approved” prison terms for “true accountability.” In a rambling column, Fischer blames society for sober drivers, drunk drivers, “shared cultural guilt” and a “draconian” criminal justice system. It may sooth Fischer’s understandably hurting heart to define the gut-wrenching loss of four teenagers to a drunk driver as a lack of personal responsibility—Owens’ and society’s. But in doing so, Fischer simplifies the nature of substance abuse and the community response to this extensive problem.
Substance abusers—and given his blood alcohol level, Owens was an alcohol abuser—feel no personal responsibility and care nothing for the common good when they drink and get behind the wheel. Owens, driving drunk, killed four kids in a horrific collision. If convicted, Owens will go to prison, as he should.
National research shows that the three-pronged approach of prevention, enforcement and treatment has positive outcomes in reducing drunk driving. The New Mexico Behavioral Health Collaborative recently had a one-day seminar on substance abuse treatment outcomes in New Mexico. I hope Mayor David Coss et al are looking at those results before making decisions on the next steps.
Education, enforcement, taking away licenses, treatment, longer jail sentences, etc. are responses to DWI used throughout the United States. But the facts are the deaths and injuries did not go down substantially. With the combination of efforts currently in force in New Mexico, we have reduced death and injury substantially using new strategies, which include ignition interlock, interlock licensing, vehicle immobilization and vehicle seizure. Yet almost 50 percent of DWI offenders convicted here lie and say they do not have a car, so they do not have to get the interlock. We do not know if Scott Owens would have decided not to drive drunk if he knew his car would be seized, booted and/or interlocked if he was caught. But it is sure worth a try. Santa Fe has a plan and an ordinance on the books for 2½ years now that would allow more of these strategies, paid for by the offenders, not the taxpayers, and provide for funding of new DWI enforcement officers. The ordinance remains unenforced.
Zane’s contention that we need more education does not hold water from my experience. How many people do not know it is wrong to drink and drive and that they are risking other lives and their own? We do not need Erik Estrada on a billboard. Treatment feels good, but treatment only works in the long run when the person decides to change. Make those that still choose to drink and drive in this community, after all of these tragedies, pay the direct costs for their decisions: Boot their car, seize the car for multiple offenders and make the rest have an interlock on the car they are arrested in. Zane, we do not need it on every car, let’s start with the ones who decide to drink and drive.
Sanctions & Solutions
After reading your excellent article about the Lovato tragedy, a couple of things leap out at me. First, why do violent men, men with a history of domestic violence, get to be security guards (or cops, for that matter) and carry guns? Second, when is our culture going to take seriously how we socialize boys? As long as boys (and girls, for that matter) are encouraged to emulate the violence presented as “entertainment” and a model for how
people solve problems, we are going to have many more tragedies like this.
Pigment is a relatively new band and is just beginning to get some recognition in this town. Its music is mostly a live experience, and a relationship between the audience and the band is what its shows are about. I have seen the band go through many different incarnations and grow in leaps and bounds from the first “jam sessions.” I believe that Pigment will continue to grow and continue to share its unique form of music with its audience. While the Pigment sound may not be for everyone, there are plenty of folks here in Santa Fe who love what the band does.
More Nice THings
I wholeheartedly agree with Chris Diestler’s letter regarding the work of Alex De Vore. De Vore knows nothing about music and is an awful writer. It is a shame, then, that you would employ him as your music writer.
My antipathy towards De Bore’s creative output can be traced back to the fan letter he wrote to Alex Maryol. Since then, his writing has evolved to the level of a chimp wearing diapers but still throwing his shit at the wall.
Send Rob Brezsny and Dan Savage more money. They are the only reasons to read your putrid forum for “Weekly News and Culture.”
I was disappointed by the Reporter’s lack of objectivity in publishing the interview with Joni Arends. Ms. Arends implies that Los Alamos National Laboratory is a collection of indifferent individuals [who] care nothing for the environment. If this is so, why did paper recycling bins appear under everyone’s desk as soon as they became available at LANL years ago? Those of us who work at LANL are community members too, and we do care, but unfortunately, without knowledge, the public makes judgements based on fear.
For example, how many know that the Environmental Protection Agency’s limit for radioactive air emissions is more than 30 times less than the background radiation we are all exposed to here at 7,000 feet and that LANL emits only a very small fraction of that limit? In my job, I’m involved in safety and environmental protection every day. Yes, there were errors in the past, but a more balanced journalistic perspective could help build understanding and partnership in our community.
C John Graham
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