Friday, April 10, 2009

The tragedy of lives cut short.

It was in the news and on the internet today that the Anaheim Angels Rookie Nick Adenhart was tragically killed by a hit and run driver in the early hours of the morning on Thursday. 3 people in total died in that crash, Nick and 2 other passengers in the car. Nick was 22...the two others were 20 and 27. He had just pitched his first start in the major leagues and pitched 6 scoreless innings. This should have been one of the best days of his of many to come, but it ended up as a tragedy for him, his family, his fans...and everyone.

As soon as I heard how the accident went down...I knew the driver had to be under the influence of something. The way he ran from the scene. Nothing else made a lick of sense. Some time last night, it was reported that the driver of the car that hit Nick was under the influence of alcohol and over the limit. The police also reported that he had previously been charged with DUIs and had his licensed revoked because of the convictions. He has not been charged yet, but they expected charges of vehicular manslaughter if not murder, hit and run and DUI. He also killed 3 people and he is going to have to LIVE with that the rest of his life...hopefully in prison.

I am incredibly saddened by this news...that three young people's lives were cut so short because of the reckless and preventable actions of another person. Unfortunately, I know it happens everyday...and it is more in the news because one of the victims was a professional athlete.

As I am saddened...I am also incredibly angry. Most people know what I do for a living. I am a social worker...who works with the courts with people with drug and alcohol offenses. A large bulk of my job is evaluating people who have gotten DWIs and recommending them for treatment as part of their case. What is maddening to that the system also helped this situation to happen. Unfortunately...DWIs are often not taken seriously by the people who commit them and the court systems. Most people do not get much consequences at all for driving under the influence. They might get a couple of classes or have their license suspended or revoked. In many cases, someone with repeated DWIs does not get much in terms of consequences until they hurt themselves or someone else. This case is just another example in a long line. The guy had his license taken away, but that doesn't stop him from turning the key on his car and driving.

Let's use NY as an example since that is what I am most familiar with. When someone gets their first DWI...usually in the courts, it is pled down to a DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired). It moved from a misdemeanor to a violation (such as a speeding ticket, etc). The person often has to attend an education class or a MADD/SADD program. Their license is usually suspended, but they are eligible for a conditional license to go to work and appointments. It is rarely checked if that is all they are using their license for. Sometimes they are required to go to treatment...sometimes not. And if they refuse, the most jail time they could get is 15 days.

Now...let's say this person gets a 2nd DWI. NY State Law says that more than 1 DWI in 10 years would make it a Felony DWI. Does this person in this example get a felony DWI? No. They get charged with a misdemeanor DWI- 1st Offense. Why? Because they were never convicted of a DWI in the last one because it was pled down to a violation. I've seen people get 4,5,6 DWIs and still get charged with a DWI- 1st Offense.

And much like this situation...that is just a tragic accident waiting to happen. There is no other word to describe it but maddening....especially since it is preventable. If people thought something bad might actually happen to THEM if they drove might make a different. And for those who obviously have a problem with alcohol, treatment should be a requirement and not something that can be "gotten out of" in court. I could give you countless examples in my own community of people who discounted DWIs over and over again...until they killed someone. At that point, people clammer at how out of control it is, but unfortunately we aren't doing anything about it when it is within out control. I'm saddened and also incredibly angry.

My heart breaks for Nick's family and friends. He was 22 and had the whole world to live for. His dreams were just starting to come true. MLB cancelled the Angels game last night...and congrats to them for doing the right thing and allowing that team and the community to mourn. Tonight, the Red Sox play the Angels in Anaheim. That is going to be a game that is just depressing...with a park full of broken hearts. I usually always root hardcore for the matter what. During the next 3 games, I honestly don't care who wins...and a huge part of my heart wants the Angels to win. It won't replace what they lost, but it might be a healing moment for them...when they can cheer their team to victory and enjoy the game of baseball.

RIP Nick Adenhart. The game will continue on, but it lost a heck of a great player and man.