We have this really annoying habit as humans of thinking we’re invincible or that the one tragic thing that could happen in a situation won’t happen to us. Nowhere else is this more evident than with the drunk driver. Rarely does the driver set out to kill — he/she only wants to ride the high as they get from point A to B — but we know all too well that driving under the influence can kill.
And drunk drivers have been killing children recently in New York City. This month alone, three children have died as a result of riding in a vehicle driven by a woman allegedly under the influence.Sheila Bethea was charged Tuesday with manslaughter, assault, and endangering the welfare of a child after the minivan she was driving collided head-on with another minivan in Queens. The crash killed two of the five girls she was transporting to a foster center on Monday. Another girl is in a medically induced coma in intensive care and an adult passenger may lose the use of an eye. Bethea reportedly was driving 60 miles an hour on a neighborhood street where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour. The middle seats of her minivan were removed and two of the girls were sitting on the floor. It’s not known whether these were the girls who died; however, none of the girls were wearing seat belts.
Tests revealed Bethea’s blood alcohol level to be 0.03 percent, which is below the 0.08 percent legal definition of intoxication, about an hour and a half after the crash. She also had a crack pipe, wrapped in tissue, hidden in a body cavity that was discovered at the hospital. Investigators have issued a search warrant on the hospital for a sample of her blood to determine if she was under the influence of narcotics. Bethea has since admitted to binging on crack, heroin, and alcohol before she wrecked her minivan. But this isn’t the first time Bethea has operated a vehicle while impaired. In 2003, she was convicted of driving while impaired after refusing to submit to a chemical test. She reacquired her license this past July.
Similarly, Carmen Huertas of the Bronx drunkenly crashed her car on the Henry Hudson Parkway on Oct. 11, killing one of the seven girls in her care, according to authorities. She was arraigned Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court via video conference from a Queens hospital, where she’s being held. Huertas is facing charges of vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated. The girls reportedly begged her to stop driving, the father of one of the surviving children said. And there have been reports that Huertas played a game of chicken, asking the girls how many of them thought they were going to crash.
I personally don’t see why anyone would risk driving with alcohol or any other impairing substance in their bodies, especially in a metropolitan city where there are several modes of public transportation available. These two instances prove that potential consequences are too grave to take lightly. We need more laws to keep children away from drunk drivers, because using common sense is apparently too much to ask. [NY Daily News, NY Times, NY Times]