Darwin Awards applicant surpassed by the slipperly slope of blame

Here’s one for ya. Yesterday morning a young woman (with whom I’m acquainted) gets into her car, starts it, then remembers she left something in the house. It’s cold outside — she leaves the car running to get the heat going and heads back into the house.  She’s inside for less than a minute. When she returns, her car is GONE.

car_crash_What happens? Some Darwin Awards applicant steals her car, and just a few miles away collides head on with another vehicle — a man driving his two kids to school.  The idiot thief is ejected through the windshield (unfortunately he was not decapitated in the process), the two kids get by with a few scrapes, and the driver of the other car is in the hospital for several days (click the picture to see a bigger version of it).

According to witness statements (from the story in the Idaho Statesman), the thief was driving between 60 – 70 mph in the oncoming traffic lane.

That may be pretty stupid, but some of the comments about this story on the Statesman’s website take stupidity to a whole new level.

One obsessive compulsive “person” who goes by the name “msmidaho” couldn’t have been more compassionate.  msmidaho said:

“The owner of the stolen car is responsible for this accident, it is against the law in Ada county to leave a running car unattended, had the owner of the car followed the law the scumbag wouldnt have been able to steal it and cause all the damage.”

My wife (who works with the owner of the stolen vehicle) and I sat reading that with our jaws open, both of us stunned by this incredulous logic.

Part of what’s ruining this country is what I call chain-reaction blame, and msmidaho seems to be an advocate.

Here’s part of my response to msmidaho:

… Using this logic, the next time you don’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign and a pedestrian shakes his head at you, and gets a stiff neck due to an odd muscle movement when doing so, which causes him to miss work, which causes someone to have to work late, and that someone gets killed in an accident on the way home, then you are responsible.

After all, if you had just followed the law and came to a complete stop, the person wouldn’t have shook his head, and he wouldn’t have missed work, and the other person wouldn’t have worked late, and wouldn’t have been driving at the time of the accident. It’s all your fault.

Slippery slope, that kind of thinking. Where does the chain of responsibility stop? The OWNER of the STOLEN car is responsible for the accident?!? Any perspective, in California, here, or otherwise, that the owner of the car is responsible is just another example of the demise of common sense.

In the last paragraph I refer to California because apparently — according to the discussion on the comments page — the laws there DO make the person who left her car running responsible for the accident. Holy shit! What the hell is the world coming to?

It is my firm opinion that slippery-slope chain-reaction blame ought to be a category for the Darwin Awards.  Asinine logic like that is going to send society down the tubes.



Filed under Culture, Law, News, Rants

5 responses to “Darwin Awards applicant surpassed by the slipperly slope of blame

  1. Sean McDonough

    By the way. Not sure how I was able to come across this when doing a search on the accident, but I am the man with two kids that were on the receiving end of the accident. I have spent 1 week in hospital and will be spending many more months or more with rehab. My kids are suffering from psych trauma like inability to sleep or sleep alone as well as not able to drive on the street to take them to school as well as get pretty worked up when in the car they smell exhaust as it reminds them of the accident odors.

    This nation is built on freedoms as well as responsibilities and accountability. I have NEVER been part of anything like this nor ever thought I would, but as luck came my way that day in January – my car and its occupants were on the receiving end of an object used with lethal force.

    I can honestly tell you that prior to 1-11-08 I was very much a person fed up with the direction our society had turned and how so many feel it important to direct blame toward others when it is most often the lack of gray matter on the other person’s part that led to the pain and suffering. Example – the fool that spilled the hot coffee on them from McDonald’s and got a large law suit. Give me a break. They ordered coffee and not a milk shake. How stupid are you to think it would be anything other than HOT?!

    On the other hand – your venting/example of same logic is stretching it far. Please allow me to extend my version of how this event can be extended back to the OWNER of the car.

    The car is nothing less than a lethal weapon if not used in a safe and responsible way. We are all required to take tests to drive and to carry insurance for when crazy mistakes happen. As adults and responsible people, we are all held accountable to keep this item of ours safe and in working order to prevent malfunction.

    With all that in mind, we do not hand our keys to those we know are not reasonable or responsible as it could conflict with what we all believe to be right. In such; we do not leave said auto open, unlocked and running for others to use as it may result in a use we are not intending.

    I have a rifle. I keep the gun and the bullets far away from each other because I am unable to guarantee who may get control of said gun and use it in a way I do not desire. I even use a gun lock to provide added security.

    Simple – the car used and its availability to be used by the wrong person is no less a neglect of responsibility than if I were to load my gun, leave it on a park bench next to a play ground and run into the near by porta-potty for a few minutes to relieve myself.

    I am angry at no one and especially not the car OWNER. Nothing she did was intended to cause harm, but it did. She, in such a small way, skipped a small step in life to ensure other’s safety that on the date of 1-11-08 caused life altering trauma and injuries to my children and I.

    I finish with the fact that I do not think the OWNER is a bad person. She is as much a victim in many ways as I, but she did; ultimately, provide the weapon that began this terrible chain of events and for that my heart goes out to her.

    Sadly – I am the largest victim here and it is me dealing with the medical bills, loss of work and future pain and suffering from the horrors in which his accident brought my family.

    She and I BOTH carry insurance to protect ourselves from issues just like this. She MUST take responsibility for her actions and allow her insurance to provide the assistance my family needs to overcome our trauma, because only a fool could ever believe it was my fault and that we should be taking 100% of the loss and punishment.

  2. Lave Sus Manos

    Mr. McDonough:

    If, in fact, you ARE the person who was hit on January 11 by the JackAss who stole the car, thank you for your response to my perspective.

    After searching the web, I find a Sean McDonough associated with ESPN and another associated with the FBI — but nobody by that name in any news pieces about the stolen car collision in Meridian on January 11 of this year.

    However, operating in the interest of giving you the benefit of the doubt, and because people will read your letter (if it really is you) and draw conclusions, I feel a response from me is justified.

    In total fairness, having not been on the receiving end of a collision, I can’t say I’ve been in the exact same circumstances as you. However, I have been the victim of two serious crimes and I still wear the scars to prove it, so I can commiserate with you on that level.

    And I was raised in a law-enforcement family and served honorably in the US Military, so I have 100% respect for abiding by rules. That having been said, I must respond to several of your comments:

    1. The McDonald’s case you cite does not have McDonald’s breaking any laws that you, I, nor any other common-sense individual would be aware of. Yet they were blamed and found guilty. No chain-of-events occurred in between the perpetrator and the victim. You say “give me a break.” You and I couldn’t agree more.

    2. You claim my analogy about rolling a stop sign is “stretching it far.” My response: Chain-of-events blame thinking is what it is.

    The point made by msmidaho on the Idaho Statesman comments page (and the logic you seem to agree with) is that because a person broke the law and another person was injured for it by way of a chain of events, then the person who originally broke the law is responsible for causing the injury. Specific to your situation:

    Jane Doe leaves her car running unattended (against the law)
    Jack Ass steals her car. (against the law)
    Jack Ass runs into Sean McDonough
    Jane Doe’s breaking the law was the catalyst for end result (collision and injury)
    – therefore she is party to the responsibility of it all.

    My analogy used the same chain-of-events logic:

    msmidaho rolls a stop sign (against the law)
    Pedestrian shakes his head and gets an injury
    Pedestrian’s Coworker must do extra work to fill in
    Coworker gets killed on way home after working late on Pedestrian’s work
    msmidaho’s breaking the law was the catalyst for end result (collision and death)
    — therefore s/he is party to the responsibility of it all.

    You say my analogy is too far? How? It uses the same logic. In fact now that I think about it, using that logic, msmidaho should be responsible for Pedestrian’s doctor bills, too.

    At question, I suppose, is “Where should the ‘too far’ line be drawn?”

    In your situation, the logic pattern is as follows:

    Person #1 violates law.
    Person #2 violates law as a result of Person #1 violating the law.
    You get injured as a result of Person #2’s actions.
    You want Person #1 to be held responsible for your injuries.

    Perhaps a parallel that’s not “too far” may illustrate my point better:

    msmidaho rolls a stop sign (against the law)
    Pedestrian jaywalks into the street to get msmidaho’s licence number (against the law)
    Pedestrian causes Sean McDonough to veer to avoid hitting Pedestrian, and McDonough gets injured after running head on into a cement wall.
    SAME Logic:
    msmidaho’s breaking the law was the catalyst for the collision and injuries.
    — therefore, s/he is party to the responsibility of it all.

    This one cannot be not “too far,” for it follows the exact same logic sequence.

    (Hopefully Pedestrian was able to get msmidaho’s license plate number so s/he could be caught and held responsible.)

    If you’re not convinced, we can make the analogy even closer to what really happened. Let’s change the role of Pedestrian from ‘do-gooder’ to ‘evil-doer’ (just like Jack Ass the car thief).

    msmidaho rolls a stop sign (against the law)
    Jack Ass is tired of people rolling the stop sign by his house. It’s the last straw for him. His anger finally explodes — he draws a fully-legal, registered hand gun and fires at msmidaho (against the law)
    Jack Ass aims bad and shoots into another car, hitting Sean McDonough

    Logic pattern is exactly the same:

    Person #1 violates law.
    Person #2 violates law as a result of Person #1 violating the law.
    You get injured as a result of Person #2’s actions.

    Do you want Person #1 to be held responsible for your injuries?
    Because msmidaho rolls a stop sign, should his/her car insurance pay for treatment of your bullet wounds, your family’s needs, and help you overcome your trauma?

    I do NOT mean to make light of your situation in ANY way – my questions are merely When do we start or stop being responsible for someone else’s actions? Where do we draw the line? How far is too far?

    3. You state that a car is:

    “nothing less than a lethal weapon if not used in a safe and responsible way. We are all required to take tests to drive and to carry insurance for when crazy mistakes happen.”

    This next sentence will probably sound like an excuse, but I think it is fair to discuss societal norms: If we polled the entire population of Idaho, what percentage would KNOW that it is illegal to leave a running car unattended? How come the police don’t enforce that law? How come police don’t even issue warnings for leaving cars running unattended?

    Rolling stop signs? People are aware of that law. But we’d be hard pressed to identify even 5% of Idaho residents who are aware of the “unattended car” law.

    In no way am I saying the young woman did not violate state code by leaving her running car unattended. What she DID do was what thousands of people do every day throughout the state, and what hundreds of thousands of residents have done from time to time.

    To enforce this law on her and nobody else is selective enforcement, and that is clearly unethical.

    To that end, I want to provide another analogy using the exact same circumstances you provide in your statement that cars are ‘lethal weapons’.

    This analogy uses General Contractors, who are also required to be licensed and carry insurance for when crazy things happen.

    Most General Contractors have hammers. And just like cars, hammers are also lethal weapons if not used in a safe and responsible way. Yet we see contractors constantly leaving hammers and other tools unattended near their vehicles and on job sites.

    Yet according to OSHA’s Health & Safety Construction-related Regulations (which Contractors must follow to maintain their licensure), employers “shall permit only those employees qualified by training or experience to operate equipment and machinery.

    Using logic you appear to advocate, if someone steals a hammer off a contractor’s truck and later uses it to break into someone’s house and strike the homeowner causing injury, then the General Contractor allowed someone who is not a qualified employee to operate equipment, and is therefore a party to the crime.

    Person #1 violates law.
    Person #2 violates law as a result of Person #1 violating the law.
    Homeowner gets injured as a result of Person #2’s actions.

    Should we have Person #1 (the General Contractor) be held responsible for the victim’s injuries?

    If so, then police need to start ticketing every contractor who leaves a vehicle unattended when said vehicle has tools available for the taking. The law is the law. Enforce it on everyone, or don’t enforce it at all.

    If every contractor got ticketed in this manner, eventually nobody could steal tools off their trucks to use when committing crimes. It would make our society safer overall for this to happen. They need to keep potentially lethal weapons under control at all times!

    Forgive my sarcasm, but many things in our society –even ball point pens are lethal weapons if not used safely and responsibly.

    4. You equate a rifle with unlocked running cars.
    I would like respectfully remind my guest that in our society, the primary use of a gun or rifle is that of a weapon. As such, it is most certainly moral and prudent to store them as you describe.

    However, with regard to our society’s view of cars (and hammers – and ball point pens), neither the primary, secondary, nor even tertiary use is that of a weapon. Any ten-year old can enter a store and buy a pen or a hammer, and any sixteen year old can buy a car — without a background check!.

    Therefore, the parallel of guns to cars does not line up. Accordingly, the points made do not line up, either.

    All this said, if you are who you say you are, you have been wronged, and it is an injustice. I imagine your frustrations and pains are overwhelming. Like both situations that gave me my scars, your situation is a tragedy.

      Several final points:

    I remain committed to personal responsibility. Jack Ass holds the primary responsibility for what happened that day. But if Jack Ass has no assets from which to draw and Jane Doe did not have insurance, then who else could be responsible to make sure your vehicle insurance and your medical insurance coverage were of sufficient amounts to compensate you for such an event?

    Please note: IN NO WAY am I even hinting that the collision was your fault. I am simply pointing our the same thing you did; that insurance exists for a reason, and we buy it to protect us. But we buy it to the level we think we can live with. That level of coverage is a decision we make, and we must live with the consequences of our decisions, whether they are good or painful in the end.

    And, when we choose incorrectly (or insufficiently), and we are injured beyond the coverage we purchased through something that was not our fault (as BOTH of us have), it is, again, a tragedy.

    Second, my initial shock and reaction was to msmidaho’s crass, uncompassionate comment about the other victim (Jane Doe). msmidaho is truly an insensitive ass.

    Last, laws may be in place that allow for Jane Doe (through her insurance) to be held fiscally liable for a portion of your bills. But before ANY of that happens, Jack Ass needs his assets (however few they may be) to be 100% turned over to you.

    I believe strongly that chain-of-events blame is a very slippery slope. To reiterate my questions, At what point do we draw the line and say the blame has gone “too far” down the chain? At what point do we start and stop being responsible for other people’s actions?

    PS. Mr. McDonough, if you really are the victim of that collision, it appears you are in the perfect position to petition the police department to start ticketing everyone who leaves their car or truck running unattended. If we are going to punish one person for not following this law, we need to punish everyone who doesn’t follow this law. Fair is fair, yes? Seriously, you are in the perfect position to do this. I look forward to your campaign.

  3. samborini

    Wow, Lave, you don’t have anything to say about this, do you? But really, you make a good point about McDonough. //I doubt that’s his real name, too// He is responsible to provide as much insurance for himself as he thinks he can affort. If he doesn’t want to buy more insurnace, he shouldn’t say others should be responsible to make up for his lack of planning.

  4. Sean McDonough

    Yup – I am Sean McDonough. Check the St Al’s records for the week of the accident. For 43 years I have been the same person.

    Oddly – to be questioned on who I am is a nice thing since I am a little more secure in my feeling that my identity is not available to all those on Google.

    I have also served in the Armed Services and in fact continue to serve in the Idaho Army National Guard as a RN (nurse).

    I will not go on more than I have in the past comments as I have made my point.

    I would stand in line and push forward in that line to support your views as to “enough is enough” and time to take responsibility for our actions.

    I can go as far as to ask – Why do we the tax payer need to pay families after the 9-11 tragedy? How was my tax dollar spent in effort to comfort someone on their loss and why do my fellow soldiers that die daily in service and defense of the freedoms we have not count for a greater reaction.

    Truly, the stories and examples can go on and on and on, but the fact remains.

    Break the law. Bad sees the open door and breaks another law. I get shafted.

    I will not go into the details as I seem not to be able to find a believer in the fact I am the “Sean McDonough” that was even in the crash, but to say life has change in the greatest and worse way for myself and my kids would be to make small of the facts.

    Many of my dreams are GONE. Now divorced. Unable to remain in the Army as I am unable to pass the fitness test. Memory issues as related to head trauma. Medications. Medical bills. Loss of just a “normal” life as I recall it being as well as my dreams within the Army as a nurse.

    In fact – I had volunteered (yup- begged) to go to Iraq and serve as a nurse. I had orders in hand. They were taken away as I had to complete a course in San Antonio TX prior to deployment. I was to go to TX at the end of January. I never made the trip.

    I tell myself far too often that a trip to a war zone would have been a less life altering event than this accident and ultimately provided better to all.

    You see, while the reasons and excuses are many (and even supported by myself in so many ways), I have provided my entire life from the age of 18 to the service of country and others as a nurse.

    I have NEVER neglected my roles and responsibilities.

    I had my day in court with the man who crashed into my family and I. Prior to that date I told his attorney that all I wanted for my kids and I was for him to tell the kids he was sorry. I expressed I have always told my children to take responsibility for their actions. They – the attorney – refused.

    I tell my kids that the man who crashed into us is NOT A BAD person, but he did a bad thing.

    The court date, I was able to talk to the judge and court. Even as manly as I would assume I am I was unable to stop crying at the stand. I find even typing this is hard as the events of this accident are still ongoing.

    I expressed to the court that the accident serves to benefit no one as no amount of money or anything will return to me what I have forever lost, BUT – I told the court that it was the responsibility of the court to ensure the man remains on medication, is treated, stays away from the wheel of a car and more.

    On the way out of the court room I turned and the man was behind me. I shook his hand and gave him a man style hug and told him to please get better because at 24 he has so much to learn and live.

    I am the crash victim. My email address is smcdonou@travelers.com and I am more than willing to provide as much photos and documentation of the injuries and on-going joys I experience.

    In closing – it is easy for us all to stand on the side and have very educated and focused views, but very hard to live the shame and reality.

    That is the difference between a victim and a lawyer. Victimes have reasons. Lawyers think they are excusses.

  5. Sean McDonough

    Also – just because there is or is not a law does not make it right or wrong.

    We allow people to smoke and yet we know the health issues.

    We limit the drinking of alcohol to under 21 years of age and yet even the “adults” crash and abuse.

    We limit who can have and carry a gun and yet the “bad” people all have guns.

    We have speed limits and seat belt and helmets for bikes and yet we speed, crash and die.

    This is not; nor ever will, be a perfect world that makes the logic seem logical and justified.

    You take what I hold close and dear to me away and that deserves justice to any extent possible. That is what we as a society are founded on. Clean and clear and accurate justice.

    My role is not to determine to what extent that can run and how deep the details, but it is clear that I did not make the law nor break the law. I was just the victim and nothing more or less.

    Your thoughts can role to every side and angle you desire with the details but the facts are still and will forever be clear.

    She broke law. He broke law. I broke bones and family and career and dreams.


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