Monday, January 12, 2009

Canada, our home and blame-it-on-someone-else land

Ooh, I'm in a bit of a snit. Here's the long-story-short/point-form version:
  • Three young men died in a horrific car wreck in the cottage country north of Toronto last summer. The fourth passenger, a young woman, survived (story).
  • The vehicle's occupants had just had lunch at a golf course bar.
  • Forensic tests later determined alcohol was a factor in the crash.
Now, the Ontario Provincial Police and the province's Alcohol and Gaming Commission have just completed an investigation, and the company that owns the golf course bar as well as a number of employees there have been charged with a range of offenses, including permitting drunkenness on licensed premises and supplying liquor to an apparently intoxicated person (story). If they're found guilty, the charged companies could be fined up to $250,000. The individuals could spend a year in jail and be fined $100,000.

I know it's considered de rigeur these days to place the onus for monitoring alcohol consumption on the establishments that serve said alcohol. I know it's fashionable to subsequently charge and/or sue said establishments if - oops, when - sauced customers get behind the wheel and kill/maim themselves or others. But fashion's never been my thing, and this is one trend that'll get us into even more trouble.

See, it shifts accountability away from those who make the conscious decision to drink. And then, conceiveably, drive. It makes it easy for them or their estates to blame someone else.

It should be quite simple: If you choose to drink and drive and then subsequently pile your vehicle into a river, a hydro pole, a pedestrian, whatever, the only moron responsible for the outcome is you. Any other legal treatment of behaviors like this makes it that much easier for even more doofii like you to perpetuate the carnage and subsequently think you can lay it on someone else's shoulders.

This was doutbless an awful tragedy that has left permanent wreckage in its wake for too many people to count. But it wasn't an accident. And sadly, the person who chose to drive died along with two of his buddies. While laying blame at the feet of others does nothing to change the outcome, it lays the groundwork for other potential time bombs to end up in a river somewhere because they think it's someone else's responsibility to keep them in check.

One shudders to think how much more fair society would be if people simply took accountability for their actions. We can always dream, eh?

Your turn: Thoughts?

18 comments:

mark said...

I'm all for personal accountability, it's the only way for a civilized society to successfully exist. I guess all we can do is try to lead by example.

andrea said...

One can always find an excuse for an action.

But we are all beings with the ability of choice. And THAT, my friend, is where accountability lies. With the individual making the choice, or the one making choices for those who cannot for themselves.

I agree with you whole heartedly. And without something snarky to say...for a change.

Andrea:)

Hilary said...

I'm of two minds about this. Ordinarily, I'd say that the family of the deceased were not looking for blame, but an income.

In this particular instance, they were kids. Yes, adults by legal standards, but they were essentially kids. Aged 19 and 20. Kids generally don't see around corners and they become intoxicated easily. I do believe that a drinking establishment has a big moral responsibility to consider their age, regardless of their being "legal." I think as a society we all have that moral responsibility to look out for one another.

Far larger than that though, is the responsibility of the parents. Clearly four sets of parents raised children without instilling the importance of not drinking and driving, and not getting into a car when the driver has been drinking. As a parent, my grief and guilt would go hand in hand.

Laurie said...

I couldn't agree more! I am so completely disgusted by the shifting of personal responsibility to third parties. It is very commonplace here especially in my "Nanny State" of NJ. Someone is always a victim of something and therefore does not have to be held accountable for anything any more. I think it is a huge factor in how we got where we are today. It's a crying shame.

daisy said...

I'm so with you on this!

All This Trouble... said...

Nodding in agreement...

Candace said...

My brother killed himself drinking and driving. I never considered blaming the people that gave it to him. He was 23 at the time. He knew the possible outcome of his actions and yet he couldn't resist. I spent a long time angry at him.

For every action there is a reaction.

I am a Tornado ~ proven fact! said...

Carmi - I very much agree.

I see this action every single day in much smaller doses, and it terrifies me. This pushing blame on someone else is present in our schools.

I work for a school district, in the technology office and so many times kids do something they are not suppossed to (look at porn, edit someone elses files by adding swear words) and instead of punishment (IN LIEU OF PUNISHMENT) - technology is blamed for allowing this to happen. There is never blame on the students, and the parents are not notified. I understand that technology should prevent it but when a child goes above and beyond to do something they shouldn't be doing - we are still at blame, the child is never punished.

Also, students are now recieving a 50% grade for missed assignments. The lowest grade a student receives is 50%.

Homeroom is now 2nd period because the students can not be expected to show up on time. Its not the students fault they can't be on time for school, it's the schools fault for having homeroom to early.

Its seriously everywhere and it terrifies me.

How about the national ban on cell phone usage in the car. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/11/AR2009011101959.html

Meredith said...

I agree with you on this....

I am a Tornado ~ proven fact! said...

My prayers and thoughts to friends and family of the deceased.

barbie2be said...

i am not surprised that the investigaion focused on those that worked at the restaurant that served the alcohol rather than on the drinkers (carmi, what is the legal drinking age in canada?). any one of the other three passengers in the car could have told the driver that they were too drunk to drive. they could have refused to get into the car.

it's all about choices. the same thing would have happened here in the US. we live in a very litigous society, and everyone wants their piece of the pie.

vesperinlimbo said...

I agree! I think these kinds of laws treat us like infants.

sheila said...

Same stuff in the US. Also, for instance, if you have a party at your house, and an attendee who is drunk, leaves and injures/kills someone...you can be held accountable also.

As for the bars? I agree that people should have enough common sense for themselves....but maybe the bartender should recognize the signs of '10 too many' and stop serving. I think that would depend on the level of alchohol in the blood and also the amount consumed at the bar (I would think that they'd have to prove you were drinking there and for how long).

I do know that several bars here have installed breathilizers inside. You can plunk in like 50 cents, get a straw, put it in the machine, blow in it and see if you're okay to drive or not.

I'm not saying you're wrong...I'm agreeing with you, except in cases where the bartender clearly sees an issue. If the person can't stand, or is horribly slurring...that could indicate the need to stop serving. that's got nothing to do with responsibility, but more to do with common sense

Lyn said...

I have to agree with you. We can never allow citizens to abdicate their personal responsibilites. I would hope we would create shame around serving alcohol to someone visibly inebriated however it comes down to choice. People who drink exessively and do not make prior arrangements for transportation make bad - even criminal - choices. I wish we could promote personal accountability in our society and stop with the reflex of looking to place blame elsewhere. If not - we are in deep trouble ...

jenifriend in kansas said...

i disagree with hilary in that the parents failed to instill the importance of not drinking and driving in these kids. while parents bare the responsibility to educate their children, they are still not responsible for their actions when they become legal consenting adults. yes those parents will feel guilty for feeling as if they didn't do enough, but even if they had done everything they could, it is never safe to assume that it would have been enough to prevent their child from making an irresponsible decision. having said that, to you carmi i agree with you. if we hold the vendor accountable for a buyers actions, we will see ourselves in a huge heap of trouble in the future. before we know it, we'll be blaming a doctor when her patient chooses to overdose on her hydrocodone, a knife company when a buyer chooses to stab his wife and budweiser when an alcoholic dies of liver cancer because of their alcoholism. i can appreciate and respect the notion of moral obligation, but i believe personal responsibility presides over being babysat by others. this is about as dimwitted as when a patron sued mcdonald's because the coffee wasn't marked "hot"...duh.

Kaknu said...

I agree totally. This sort of thing drives me bonkers. If serving alcohol is legal than let the bars serve it as they see fit. - How should they know who is going to drive afterwords. Some people actually take taxis or have a designated driver. Should bar tenders also ensure that you aren't taking medications that might become lethal when mixed with alcohol. Where is the line drawn once all responsibility is removed from the individual? Gah - your snit is contagious! :p

Marion said...

This creates a precedent...just watch the courts get tied up over many of these kinds of blaming cases.

I've always wondered how bartenders and the like who serve alcohol in a busy bar or restaurant are supposed to watch and observe and count how many drinks each and every customer in his establishment is having. The server would also have to know if his customer had been drinking before he came to the bar.

Seems to me they aren't paid enough to be these kinds of watchdogs.

Lee said...

Could not agree with you more....by constantly blaming others our society seems to be able to remove blame from themselves for stupid actions...it's time people took responsibility for their own mistakes.
You have every right to be in a bit of snit! Thankfully in Australia we haven't gone so far down this road of sueing for things like that, I sincerely hope we don't start any time soon.