It’s really hard to stomach an “Affluenza” defense in a criminal court. It is almost laughable until you realize the absolute damage caused by a DUI. One of the most basic lessons we can teach our children when they learn to drive is that getting behind the wheel of a car is not a game, and any amount of alcohol can be a danger. As such, maybe through the example of Affluenza, we can find a teaching moment that is about responsibility on the roads, not a head-shaking tale of fear that inspires little faith in the legal process.
Affluenza was the reason that Ethan Couch only received 10 years of probation after four people were killed during a Texas DWI incident. He “didn’t know any better,” than to get behind the wheel and drive under the influence of alcohol. Unfortunately, Couch was not under the restriction of a car breathalyzer or ignition interlock device, as he had not been convicted of drinking and driving prior to this incident. While it may be simple to point to those types of devices to help curb drunk driving, they are only used after a DUI incident has occurred. Prior to that, a person is expected to understand right from wrong and sober from intoxicated.
With the latest news on Couch, it is clear that he remains a danger on the road. Unfortunately, he still does not qualify for an ignition interlock to prevent him from driving under the influence again. His 10-year probation does not include the device as an option, and he’s still technically facing consequences as a juvenile offender.
We don’t often get such a prime example of “whaaaa?” but Couch’s Affluenza is a clear disconnect in the fight against drunk driving. We may not all have access to ignition interlock devices or programs like D.A.R.E., but we can always be examples of responsible driving, and discuss safety with our kids. Most experts agree that the best way to keep kids from irresponsible behaviors is to be a role model, something that we can all learn from and use to keep our loved ones safe from harm.