The New Year’s gloom is slowly abating, it definitely will go away for good with advent of regular daily grind in the corpo-world, due to commence the day after tomorrow.
Daily dose of news does not fill one with overly optimism though. Headlines in recent days were dominated by tidings of ‘carnage’ in Kamien Pomorski in north-west Poland, where on New Year’s Day an inebriated and intoxicated 26-year-old male murdered six people and left two other injured. The fatalities are members of two families who went with children for a New Year’s Day stroll. They were out of luck to be smashed by a somersaulting red BMW. In fact every one of us could have lost life in such brutal way.
The massacre gave rise to public outrage for many reasons. Not only because the culprit was guilty of drunk-driving, not only because in 2006 he was once deprived of his driving license for driving under influence (recidivist), not only because in seconds he took away several human beings’ lives. The most appalling was that he would be subject to up to 15 years of imprisonment, and charged with drunk-driving and causing fatal accident, while many believe he should be held accountable of murder and his 20-year-old female passenger (sober at the time of accident), who had done nothing to prevent him from sitting behind the wheel and argued with during the journey, should be accomplice. (BTW – what virtues has that man had to impress a woman?)
After the senseless death of six people, problem of drunk-driving has come under fire in the media and among politicians. The government intends to put forth far more severe punishments for drunk-driving and thus crack down on plague of pinheads sitting behind the wheel under influence.
Whether the stricter penalties serve their purpose is a debatable issue. The problem of drunk-driving is more social than political or legal (although if such crime as the one committed by 26-year-old bandit is not categorised as murder, it lays bare an evident shortcoming of the Polish penal code). The heart of the problem has been rightly located by Michael, who points out it is the ‘tacit consent’ / ‘acquiescence’ for drinking alcohol and sitting behind the wheel thereafter in the Polish society. Written law might fulfil its role better or worse, but it will surely do it better, if certain behaviours become intolerable. Drafting a new, restrictive law with severe punishments for drunk-driving and enacting it is a matter of weeks. Eradicating the ‘tacit consent’ for minds of millions of Poles is a task for years.
As correctly noted, people sit behind the wheel tanked-up, not because they are not precluded from it by gentle punishment, it is because they expect not to be caught. From economic perspective, a drunk driver considers the situation in their intoxicated brain in the following way: expected punishment = punishment times odds of being caught. If the latter is low, even if the former is high, the outcome is low and they are more likely to drive…
A law which is not enforceable is worth nothing… What is the point for irreversible loss of driving licence? Maybe my way of thinking is weird, but this measure simply does not work. If somebody is to sit behind the wheel, they will do this, no matter if they possess the document or not. Forfeiture of property (vehicle) and pecuniary penalties should serve as primary measures against inebriated drivers.
That ‘carnage’ is not the only incident from recent days which called into question faith in people…
On 28 December 2013 a 22-year-old male killed with a hammer his 30-year-old friend and his 8-year-old son, who accidentally witnessed the murder. Then the criminal stole 1,000 PLN and the victim’s car and dashed off. His escaped did not last long – soon after he crashed the car and was detained by the police. The murder was committed with cold blood.
On New Year’s Eve, in Łódź, a drunk pregnant (9th month) 31-year-old woman, was run down by a car. Circumstances of the accident still remain unclear, but from the picture that emerges it transpires she was a member of gang which threatened to damage cars in order to wheedle out money from their owns. One of their victims was a 67-year-old man returning from fireworks show. While trying to run away, he probably did not see the pregnant woman lying on the street and mowed her down. The woman died on the same day, her child passed away two days after (this is the most probably scenario presented in the media)
On the same day, somewhere in southern Poland a drunk 33-year-old man almost trounced to death a 3-month-old infant. The child is fighting for life.
On New Year’s Day three men in their 20’s threw a firework into a house inhabited by a disabled man. For kicks. The firework set the fire. The man with first and second degree burns was taken to hospital, his dwelling is uninhabitable. For kicks…
And while I was writing it, a drunk driver in Bytom hit into a group of people. Fortunately, nobody was killed, nor severely injured.
Down in the dumps, I was surely oversensitive to such news. These eye-popping examples of cruelty and idiocy, although gruesome and unacceptable, should not spoil the overall picture of Poland. It is not the country of widespread criminality, full of drunk murderers, albeit in terms of common sense behind the wheel, catching up with more civilised nations would improve safety on Polish roads. The only alarming common denominator of all misdeeds mentioned above is that they were committed by relatively young (aged less than 35) people. This does not cast good light on generation which in decade or two should become Poland’s elite.
I wish such accident do not recur. I can merely wish, as I fail to come up with a prescription for successful measures decreasing criminality. I only hazard a guess it is not a task for politicians or lawmakers. It is a task for social engineers and everyone who could tamper with people’s mindsets…