I think it is fair to say that the average female is more law-abiding than the male. For example, a male is more likely to exceed the speed limit than his female counterpart. This is not to say that men are lawless. Rather, they tend to be more ah, flexible when it comes to the letter of the law.
I could speculate that women, as the physically weaker sex, may be more inclined to view the law and the forces of law and order as their protectors. In this regard, the sentiments of a Mother may be even more pronounced. While Dad may protect the home and property, Mom will always see to the children first.
If the above is true, then it may seem peculiar that is by and large it is men who make and enforce the laws, including the rules of the road. Perhaps in time this will change but I suggest the beginning of such a change is well under way, albeit from an unusual angle.
Under the heading, "Mother hits out at delay in reforming drink-drive laws," the Examiner yet again, features a crusading Mother who lost her 24-year-old son in a car accident. For the last seven years, Christina Donnelly has campaigned relentlessly to have drivers held accountable for their actions, especially in the case of drink or drug drivers. Her proposal, called after her son, Brendan's Law, demands that drink drivers convicted of causing death be put off the road until they appear before the courts, for a minimum six- to nine-year jail sentence upon conviction, with no early release for good behaviour. Christina wants to lock 'em up and throw away the key. And before you say it is only a grieving Mother venting her frustration, she has already made Ends Kenny agree to introduce "Brendan's Law," and she's meeting Minister for Transport, Shane Ross next week.
In a similar vein, another grieving Mother is on the warpath having lost her daughter Amanda in a crash near Cobh, Co Cork, in 2012. It emerged at her inquest that gardaí later identified serious defects in her 4×4’s rear suspension which made it not roadworthy. In Paula Murphy's case, she maintains that the standard of the NCT must be severely increased to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Both women profess a deep caring for every other road user and are only on their respective hobbyhorses for the common good.
The point though is, I do not agree with either of them, however unpopular it may be to say so. In criminal law there is a clear distinction between murder and manslaughter with appropriate punishments for both. Appropriate is the operative word here. Manslaughter is an accidental incident, one that is not pre-meditated. There is an implication that the drunk driver not only caused Brendan to die but planned to do so in advance. Similarly in the case of Amanda, there is an implication that some NCT tester wanted her dead and I do not believe either to be the case.
We have a problem with accepting risk in our modern society and this is particularly true of accidents. Each year in the USA, an average of 450 people fall out of bed to their deaths. While this may at first appear confusing to you dear reader, it is nevertheless the statistic. Is the bed-maker at fault for this? Should beds be banned in favour of sleeping on the floor? Perhaps laws should be introduced to determine the height of all beds and the flooring material used beside them to break a potential fall? If so, the stairway in the home must become a thing of the past surely? But those 450 people did not wake with an urge to commit suicide?
These unfortunate incidents are accidents and nothing else. I do not agree with drunk driving nor do I know the detailed background of the accident that Brendan was involved in. But what I do know is, if a Garda smells alcohol at the scene of a car accident, then whoever has consumed it is assumed to be the party at fault. The other driver may have been speeding down the wrong side of the road but that is considered immaterial. One pint of beer puts you over the legal limit but does not make you actually drunk.
In the same vein, the 4X4 at the centre of the other accident had passed the NCT just seven months before. The Mother's case in this instance is, that the leaking suspension fluid pipe that may have had a bearing on the accident, should have been spotted during the annual car test. From experience of the NCT, if they discover a leak anywhere underneath you car, they will force you to replace all of those pipes. As well as that, faults can develop between NCT's and unless we are forced to do an NCT every day, (at €50 a pop), then shit happens. An experienced driver can instantly sense a problem or something different when the car is not as it used to be and they take the appropriate action to remedy the situation. After all, none of us set out to be killed behind the wheel.
Outside of perhaps Dublin, you simply must have a car to function in Ireland. Most of the country drive to and from work, take the kids to school, do the grocery shopping in centers outside of town and generally get from 'A' to 'B' in a semi-efficient manner every day. A motor car is not a luxury but a necessity and a damned expensive one at that. With taxes for everything, an unusually high road tax, expensive petrol, a rip-off insurance scam in full flight and the cost of the things in the first place, the ordinary motorist is hard-pressed as it is. On any day, motoring on public roads is about give and take. There are good and bad drivers as well as good and bad roads. The weather can be perfect for driving or positively dangerous and everything in between. Night driving is a different animal than daytime driving before you even explore the peculiar circumstances of any individual accident. A crying child behind you can be an even bigger distraction than a mobile phone is when you alone in the car. The variables are endless and it is impossible to cater for everyone and every situation.
But a grieving Mother with a strong sense of self-righteousness and a well-developed blame culture can skew the law to put others off the road or behind bars for nine years. Neither interference will bring their loved ones back no matter how much compassion we heap on them. As well, neither interference from them can ever be proved to save a single life either. We debate how to make the roads safer and one sure method would be to ban all vehicles off the road. That would surely get rid of crashes of any kind. However, anyone struggling now to keep their old banger on the road and keep their precious job so they do not drown in a sea of debt, could find the NCT un-passable if one woman gets her way. And the other woman would see a family member jailed for nine years for being involved in an unintentional accident in the first place.
I am not without compassion for both of these woman and I do sympathize with their misfortune. But we all live in a society and the misfortune of the one should never govern how all of the rest of us must live our lives. Perhaps fate was the guiding hand in both incidents but whatever it was, the idea that all of the rest of us innocents must be punished some way for doing nothing wrong, is itself wrong.
Two wrongs do not make a right!