Saturday, December 14, 2013

Drunk Driving Out of Prison
Today's El Tiempo reports that a judge freed a woman who hit six people while driving drunk.

It's like a broken record. Someone gets drunk, hits and maybe kills people. The victims go to the hospital, the driver goes home to relax and recover.

In the most recent case, a woman hit a group of children and adults waiting for a bus to take them to the last day of school. One victim is in critical condition with head injuries, and an 11-year-old boy had to have his leg amputated.

But the driver, a 34-year-old psychologist, was freed and allowed to go home - altho it appears likely that she will ultimately be charged.

It's latest the latest travesty involving a drunk driver.

Fabio Salamanca, a wealthy young man, rear ended a taxi July 12, killing its two women passengers and leaving the taxi driver paralyzed. According to news reports, in late November Salamanca's charges were reduced, opening the possibility of home detention, after his family paid 'compensation' to the victims' families.

Last year, Juan Carlos Varela Bellini. heir to a wealthy Cali family, was drunk driving his Mercedes Benz in La Calera last year and ran over four motorcyclists, killing three and severely injuring a fourth. Varela's family paid the victims and the 27-year-old is serving his sentence in his family mansion.

Altho the victims, who are usually from humble backgrouinds, apparently agreed to these soft sentences, they did so for financial motives, not for justice. Such sentences offer terrible examples and weaken the fear of punishment for those considering getting behind the wheel after a few drinks.

For me, these cases also create an absurd contrast with what happened to an acquaintance who made products like soaps out of marijuana. (I'm sure he smoked the stuff, two.) Riding the bus back to Bogotá after a purchasing trip, police discovered he was carrying several kilos of marijuana. The guy is now serving a seven year prison sentence. (And no home detention for him.)

The case is particularly ironic to me, since marijuana use may actually reduce highway fatalities. That's because driving, while high on pot is certainly dangerous, it's less dangerous than driving after drinking alchohol. And, where pot is easily available, some consumers apparently shift from highly dangerous alcohol to less-dangerous marijuana, making the roads safer.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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