In April 2011, Kenneth Belew was driving under the influence of alcohol and rammed his car into a car. The ramming of the car into the car caused the car to flip over multiple times and hit a metal railing as well. The high speed caused the vehicle to flip over multiple lanes of traffic. As a result of his drunk driving, two passengers passed away. He and the other three passengers were treated for minor injuries.
When the police came to the scene of the accident, Belew was holding a body in his arms and crying. All the while he kept shouting that he was guilty and that he should be put in jail. Belew repeatedly kept shouting that he was responsible for the deaths. While one girl passed away on the spot, the other girl succumbed to her injuries in a hospital where she was being treated.
Belew pleaded guilty to various charges, including the two charges of motor vehicle homicide. Belew’s breath analyzer test revealed that he was twice the legal limit and driving more than 91 mph. The judge sentenced him to six years in prison. Furthermore, Belew was to give up his license for fifteen years as well as complete twenty-five hours of community service every year. The possibility of parole was only available after two and a half years.
Since now we know the facts of the case as well as the judgment, opposing views are generated by the families of the victim, the family of the culprit as well as the general public. Some have termed the sentence as a slap on the wrist. The mother of one of the girls said, “the culprit was being treated as a teenager, while clearly he was an adult.” (Cox, 2012). Others have called for reforms in the system. They argue that a policy needs to be devised which would reduce such incidents. The family of the culprit has termed the sentence as being too severe. They feel that Belew was well aware of the dangers of drunk driving. Therefore, it is possible that there were other factors that were involved in the incident. Belew’s uncle said, “They’ve been lectured, they’ve been scolded, do not drink and drive.’’ (Valencia, 2011)
While going through the case and various articles on the case, I have formed an opinion myself. The actions of Belew were not the actions of a mature person. Nor were the actions of the passengers with him in the car. All of them had been drinking heavily, which meant that their mental capacity had been diminished. They should have opted for a cab or some other service instead of deciding to pool in a car. The fact that all of them were drunk meant that it was a recipe for disaster. Furthermore, the decision of the two female passengers not to wear seatbelts should be taken into account. They put themselves in further danger than they already were. It is evident from the fact that the passengers who had been wearing seatbelts suffered only minor injuries in the car. Moreover, Belew had previous run-ins with the police on drinking charges, which is something all of them would know.
In the midst of their journey, Belew began overspeeding. Later, he hit the brakes while at high speed, which caused the car to skid and smash into a curb. It caused the car to overturn and flip multiple times. In the process, the two girls lost their lives. We have to ascertain the motive behind Belew’s decision to apply the brakes in the middle of the road. Did he panic, which caused him to apply the brakes, or was there something else on the road? There is no evidence that shows that another car, animal, etc. was on the road which could have caused him to apply the brakes. So, we know that the decision to apply the brakes was made in panic, maybe because of excessive speed.
As police and other emergency services arrived, Belew was crying uncontrollably while holding the body of a girl. This shows that immediately after the crash, he had come to his senses and was aware of the gravity of the situation. He entered a guilty plea which could account for his short sentence. However, in my opinion, the sentence is justified for a number of reasons. One reason is that, more or less, the passengers were complicit in the whole ordeal. They knew that they had been drinking, and by allowing another drunk person to drive, they themselves sealed their fate. Moreover, the girls who died had not been wearing a seatbelt when the car crashed. This meant that they were negligent to the passengers who had been wearing a seat. Later, Belew took responsibility for his actions as well (Firestone, 2011). Considering all these factors, I believe that the decision of the court was justified. Belew did break the law, but the dead girls were in a way accomplices to the events that unfolded. It would not be equitable to hold him responsible for all the events that ensued that day.
In order to avoid such regrettable incidents, we need to have strict laws regarding drunk driving. Vehicles should be fitted with ignition interlocks, which would measure the alcohol levels of a person. Higher levels would automatically stop the car from starting. Furthermore, we need to have school-based programs as well as media campaigns to discuss the evils of drunk driving.