Thursday, March 1, 2018

Two Cars, Two Times

One winter day in the mid- to late 1960s, my mother and our neighbor Joan piled their seven children into my mom’s wide-track Pontiac to go to a Girl Scouts event. It was a Sunday morning, I remember.

We kids ranged in age from about 11 to maybe 4. I was about 7. I think the youngest kid was in the front seat with the adults, the other six of us in the back, arranged in a way we had used before, and called “front-back-front-back”: each kid's proximity to the front of the seat alternated, so some of us had our backs to the seatback and others perched at the edge of the seat with our feet on the floor.

None of us had seat belts — I don’t remember if the car even had them. No car seats, either, of course.

Anyway, there we were, driving the five hilly miles to town. As you enter the last half mile before the village, the road finally drops into a valley, and runs on a windy path alongside a creek. In some spots the road was right next to the creek, while in others there was some flat ground between the road and the creek. Much of that flat ground was full of scrub trees of various sizes. No guard rail.

As my mom steered us through that shaded, winding part of the road, suddenly there was an ice patch. I’m sure she wasn’t going particularly fast, but the car skidded 90 degrees to the right, toward the creek. We went off the road into the snow.

We didn’t hit a tree of any significant size. It was the one spot in the area where the trees happened to be far enough apart to fit a car between. And we didn’t go far enough to end up in the creek bed, either.

We just stopped for a little while. I’m sure the two moms checked on the kids. And then my mom reversed out, back onto the road, and continued to our destination.

Brittany Stephens, a mom from Baton Rouge, was not so lucky last October. She was in a car with four adults and four kids when it was hit by an off-duty copy going 94 miles per hour. 94. Miles. An. Hour. Not on duty. Not with lights flashing. Just speeding at least 30 miles over the limit in his Corvette.

As the story says, “there were more people riding in the [Stephens] vehicle than seats available.” Maybe they were sitting front-back-front-back.

Everyone in the car with Stephens (who was not the driver, by the way) was injured, but her baby was killed, despite being in a car seat.

And here’s the reason I’m writing about this today: Stephens was just charged with negligent homicide for failing to secure the car seat correctly, if you can believe that.

What is the point of that charge? She lost her child. I think that’s punishment enough and warning enough for parents. It’s punitive and without a conscience to charge her.

The cop, on the other hand, is charged with the same crime. He should go to prison. Let’s see if he does.

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