Latest defendant shows just how low we can go
I don't know what bothers me more about the case of 34-year-old Anthony Watson - that he was allegedly driving drunk, putting countless innocent people at risk; that he was doing so without a valid driver's license; or that his case is so commonplace, were it not for a unique twist, we wouldn't even be talking about it.
Watson, in case you haven't heard, was pulled over cruising the Kensington at a modest 93 mph on New Year's Day. But that's not all. He was doing so while allegedly drunk. Sadly, that still wouldn't make this story unique in 2013. What did was the fact that he had 24 suspensions on his driving record for a variety of reasons, not the least of which were two drunkdriving convictions. Twenty-four? How is that even possible?
Welcome to New York state. Welcome to a place where the bars are open until 4 a.m. and the drunks have completely taken over the football stadium, to the point that the game is usually the second most pathetic thing to watch on Sunday.
What does it say about us as a society that a guy allegedly driving drunk, at close to 100 mph at 11 in the morning, with two priors barely registers a blip on our radar? It has come to be expected - because we have lowered the bar so much, it is now easier to step over it rather than limbo under it.
It would be nice if we could chalk Watson up to being just an isolated deadbeat, but it isn't that simple. I think what we're seeing is what I call the Facebook World. Whether it is Facebook, My Space, Twitter, Pinterest or the like, people have taken self-absorbtion to an art form.
If you are Anthony Watson, or the thousands of other Anthony Watsons roaming the streets of Western New York, you aren't going to let a little detail like 24 suspensions keep you from driving because, after all, it is all about YOU.
And since you like to drink, you certainly aren't going to stop and think about the other motorists and pedestrians whose lives you are putting in danger when you get behind the wheel drunk. Who cares about them? You are in it for you!
Not buying into my take on a downward-spiraling selfish society? What other explanation is there for the blase attitude on drunk driving? Or the number of hit-and-run accidents we have seen locally in recent years? Selfish people acting selfishly and looking out for Numero Uno.
Want another example? How about Danielle Kellogg, the 24-year-old who was allegedly drunk when she caused a crash that killed a young child in November. Did you catch her initial court appearance? She cowered behind a jacket pulled over her head to conceal her face. No accountability. No willingness to face the family of the victim. This was all about her - protecting her privacy and keeping her face off camera.
The worst part is that the self-absorbed who walk among us don't act alone. Kellogg was aided by those who arrived at court with her and helped shield her from the public eye. She was even aided by law enforcement, who brought her in and out the back door of the court. WIVB-TV summed it up best on its website with the headline, "Accused drunk driver sneaks into court." Well said.
And the same holds true for Watson. Do you really think none of his friends and family knew of his checkered past? Of course they did. Yet they stood idly by and let him drive every day, rolling the dice and putting the rest of us in danger. But remember, it isn't about us, not with Generation Me.
I spoke a while back with Monica Farrar, who works tirelessly to educate young people about the dangers of drinking and driving. At the time we were talking about the Corasanti case, but one detail stuck with me.
"When someone gets caught driving drunk, it isn't the first time they have done it," she told me.
Farrar said it is estimated that a person who is caught has driven drunk dozens of times prior before their luck ran out.
So as we begin the new year, we do so driving on roads littered with people texting, tweeting, driving drunk and doing whatever else they want, regardless of the danger in which they may be putting you and your loved ones. Because no matter how many laws are enacted, how many punishments are doled out, you can't legislate away selfish behavior.
So buckle up, hold on tight and good luck.