But, Jesus, this made me angry. Really angry.
To get to school, my kid walks down a little country lane and crosses a pasture along a trail. The trail ends at a busy country road that feeds a couple of rural neighbourhoods. She crosses at a school crossing.
Yesterday, some asshole was driving along that country road and drove right through that school crossing, ignoring a flashing yellow light, even though kids were in the crossing. Kids scattered and ran to avoid getting hit.
Fortunately, a sheriff was parked by the school and pulled the douchebag over. He was a 20-year-old kid and he had an open Bud Light in the car. He also blew a .223 on his breath test. He was going 37 mph in a 25-mph zone.
This was at 8:15 in the morning. It was snowy and icy out. About two inches of snow had fallen overnight.
That was my kid’s school and a crosswalk my kid crosses two or three days a week.
Montana is notorious, literally notorious, nationally for its lax attitudes about drunken driving. Montana is No. 1 — and has been for some time — in the nation for drunken driving fatalities per capita. Roughly a year ago, three teen girls walking down a road in our town were mowed down by a drunken driver. Two of them were killed. One of those girl’s moms was just arrested recently for a DUI.
A couple of years ago, some guy left a bar in Bigfork drunk, drifted across the centreline and killed a state trooper. His defence attorney, the prosecuting attorney and the judge hearing his case all had drunken driving arrests on their records.
A few years ago, it was still legal in Montana to have an open container in your vehicle. The state finally changed this law because the feds were threatening to withhold highway money over it, and I was blown away at the hue and cry. “Oh, drinking beer in a car is a Montana tradition. They’re taking away all our traditions. Damned Nanny State, etc., etc.” (Ironically, almost no one around here beefed about a statewide smoking ban that was passed about the same time.). Never mind that Montana was No. 1 in the country for DUI fatality rate. It was “tradition.”
I know drunken driving is a problem everywhere, but the biggest culture shock when we moved to Montana in 2006 was the attitude about drinking and driving. It’s like nowhere else I’ve ever lived. I literally feel if you’re driving after 11 p.m., you’re taking your life in your hands. I grew up in a bar as a kid, so I know a thing or two about overservice and the liability it entails. I was shocked at how often I saw people stumbling out of bars and heading straight for a car. I had never seen so much overservice. I came to realize it was all part of the state’s culture. I make fun of Montana a lot, make fun of its quirks and weird laissez-faire culture, but the one thing I am sincerely fed up with about Montana is the “aw, to hell with it” attitude toward drinking and driving.
Well, that DUI fatality that killed the cop in Bigfork resulted in a bartender and a bar manager getting jail time. Another bar in town was shut down because they were forced to settle a lawsuit over overservice. That seemed to wake some bar owners up.
There’s some bills in the state Legislature to toughen up the laws for multiple DUIs. As it stands now, a DUI is not a felony until your fourth DUI in Montana, and even then, it’s up to the local district attorney.
They can’t crack down hard enough or fast enough for me. I hate to come off like a prude, I hate to be the Church Lady.
But, this was my kid’s school, and a crosswalk she crosses every week.
You expect the drunks to be out after midnight.
You do not expect them to be out at 8:15 in the morning in your neighbourhood.