Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The New Drunk Driving Law Hits Home

On his way home: Killer Salamanca smiles
as he's led out of court.
Colombia's strict new drunk driving law, intended to crack down on drunks - for whom driving and even killing others had been a forgiveable offense - has finally hit home, unfortunately.

Fabio Salamanca, the rich, spoiled kid who slammed into the back of a taxi, killing its two women passengers and leaving the driver a quadriplegic while driving drunk last July, has received five years of 'house arrest.'

Salamanca's story is just the most recent legal travesty involving a drunk driver. In Salamanca's case, the judge reduced the charge from 'intentional homicide' to 'culpable homicide.' A sentence of only five years made him eligible for home detention under the new legal code. But, paradoxically, the judge didn't apply the new drunk driving law, which would have required Salamanca to do his time in prison.

House arrest doesn't have the most secure reputation in Colombia. And Salamanca's house is likely to be very comfortable, even after his family paid some 800 million pesos to the victims and their survivors.

That others should be so fortunate. An acquaintance of mine was caught last year transporting seven kilos of
'Fabio Salamanca, convicted and sent home,'
reports El Espectador.
marijuana, which he was going to use (mostly) for making health and hygiene products such as soaps. (Ironically, some public health experts believe that wider use of marijuana makes the roads safer because smoking and driving is less dangerous than drinking and driving. And, if not for the availability of pot, some of those high drivers would have been on the road drunk.

Roberto Bastidas, father of one of the women victims, told El Espectador "The justice system favored this young man because he had money....I lost my daughter, and no amount of money will bring her back to me."

For his part, the paralyzed taxi driver said that he'd gladly trade places with Salamanca, who smiled as he was escorted out of the courtroom.

The new, stricter drunk driving law has had at least one impact, however. Bavaria, Colombia's dominant beer company, told Bloomberg Business Week that Colombians are drinking less.

Colombia's didn't celebrate last Christmas with their normal binge drinking, Bavaria President Grant Harries told Bloomberg.

Normally, drinking “starts straight after they get their (Christmas) payout, and then it really takes off," Harries said. "But it didn’t take off, and this was the impact that we were feeling.”

Pity those folks at Bavaria. But Harries said that Colombian beer drinking is picking up again - and with it, perhaps, drunken driving, as well.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

Leticia Holt said...

It is too bad that it got passed months after the verdict for his drunk driving case was decided. With the new laws, he might have gotten a longer sentence, and would have served them all in jail. But it’s good that this strict drunk driving law has had an immediate effect on the number of drunk drivers in Colombia. Hopefully it continues to serve as a deterrent, so that incidents such as those will not happen again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the matter.

Leticia Holt @ Kim E. Hunter, PLLC