Who should pay for your bad choices?
When you find yourself on the outside of a situation looking in, it becomes relatively easy to find a solution for all the world”s problems – or at least at times, I seem to think so.
I was hit with one of those lightning bolts of self-proclaimed brilliance on Monday as I read about a swift-water rescue in San Marcos wherein four college students had to be pulled from
the Blanco River after knowingly (and drunkenly, no less) ignoring the barricade in the road. The driver was arrested for DUI and deadly conduct and his three passengers, two still clad in togas after the party they were leaving, were picked up for public intoxication.
I don”t think that those punishments are quite steep enough. In fact, I think that people like these should be charged a “bonehead fee.”
I”m the first one to admit that there are times during flash-flooding situations where water can come at you out of nowhere. I was once sitting at an intersection waiting for a light to change when a wall of water shot across Barton Springs Drive and rose to the windows of the Ford F-350 I was sitting in. It was as surprising as it was terrifying. The particular intersection had never been recognized, marked or even perceived as a low-water crossing.
The crossing in question in the San Marcos incident? It”s on Uhland Road over the Blanco River, and can easily be called a low-water crossing even in mid-July when nary a cloud has passed over San Marcos in a month. In late March, after a severe weather event or two (or right in the middle of a weather event, as was the case this weekend)… It”s a given. The river WILL come over the road. Knowing that, I think it is absolutely inexcusable for someone to try to traverse that road – especially when emergency services have blockaded it. Whether the driver was intoxicated or not, misdemeanor charges are not quite stiff enough to get across the point that he was acting stupid.
A lawyer friend of mine told me once that the very best way to get people to stop acting foolishly is to cause their foolish actions to cost them money. He said it”s amazing how sane people become when acting insane becomes costly.
That theory, combined with a constant concern in the community regarding under-funded emergency services brought about my idea about the “bonehead fee.”
There are some jurisdictions that charge rescuees after they fall victim to their own bad choices. Neither Lockhart nor Caldwell County does so. And perhaps they should.
If you think about it, performing a swift-water rescue is relatively expensive. Such rescues involve cost of fuel, manpower, equipment, time, and sometimes, sadly, loss of life.
I”m told that during the last two weather events, both city and volunteer fire departments had to perform water rescues, not at “surprise” low-water crossings, but in areas that are well-known to flood during severe weather. Many of these rescues take place after drivers decide to pass existing barricades, challenge the water and fail. People who should know better simply decide to try to beat the odds. In doing so, they put not only their own lives, but the lives of their passengers and the community”s emergency service workers at risk.
And why? Because they are boneheads.
I”m not saying that emergency service workers should not make every effort to save someone – even if that someone made a bad decision and put themselves in a position to need saving. But what better way to inject a little bit of revenue back into the departments than by making people pay for being saved from themselves?
Some might think that it would be hard to impose fees for rescues, stating that there are no real “identifiers” to distinguish between bad choices and bad luck. Not true.
Was there a barricade on the street, and did you move said barricade to drive into the water? If not, great. We”ll pull you out, treat you and send you along on your merry way.
Oh, there was a barricade there? We”ll still pull you out, and we”ll still treat you. Then you stroke a check and we send you on your way.
It”s an idea.
After all, some drivers have proven time and time again that they cannot be compelled to obey signs and barricades, knowing that it could cost them their lives. Perhaps they can be convinced if it costs them some cash.
(By LPR Staff)