DUI vs. non-DUI accidents: Which is more stigmatized?

November 12, 2009

I’m still reeling from the intensity of last week’s local DUI summit, and I wasn’t able to stay for the whole event, which was undoubtedly impactful and eye-opening to the dangers of drinking and driving.

The summit was held at the eve of a time of year when people are partying, drinking, and driving home from said parties, drunk.

Of course, as we all learned, not everyone who drives drunk dies.

So why is it that DUIs seem to have a more public stigma attached to them?

Case in point: our local daily paper published two auto accident stories within the last 24 hours.

In the first, a Thousand Oaks woman was arrested for driving under the influence after she crashed her car, seriously injuring herself.

In the second, 3 young Oxnard men were all killed in a brutal car accident. The driver of the car was also seriously injured. Alcohol is not being ruled as a factor in the crash at this point.

Considering the severity — and the number of fatalities — in the second crash, why is it that the paper has barred readers from submitting online their comments to the Thousand Oaks accident?

Rumors have circulated that the woman has indeed passed away since the story hit the WWW yesterday afternoon; yet nonetheless, locking the comments section on a free Web site indicates to me that this confirmed DUI story is being more … guarded by the powers that be.

It’s especially noteworthy because the story of the second crash relayed such a terrible vulnerability on part of the deceased: all in their late teens, and one a father who leaves behind a young family.

Shouldn’t both reports be open for public comment, for condolences and for discussion? Trolls will always abound on the ‘Net and insensitive comments will always be attempted, but that’s what Web moderators are for: to moderate the suitability of what should be published.

But by closing off that avenue of conversation for a drunk driving story, we do the opposite of raising awareness to the problem. It’s more akin to pushing the problem away than acknowledging it and discussing it.

We should have that freedom of speech just like we have the freedom to drink. But just as it’s against the law to drink and drive, it shouldn’t be prohibitive to talk about it before another fatality happens again.




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