Ask a Victim's Relative: Drunk Drivers Are Murderers'Tis...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 20, 1992

Ask a Victim's Relative: Drunk Drivers Are Murderers

'Tis the season to be jolly, right? Wrong! Not for the families and friends of Jim and Barb Stiles, which includes their 13-year-old daughter. On Nov. 28, 1992, they were murdered by a young man who chose the deadly combination of drinking and driving as his weapons of destruction. Like other victims, we never thought that this kind of devastation would happen to us. . . . Jim was my brother. Barb was more than a sister-in-law; she was my friend and confidant for over 23 years. Even though we were separated by the miles between Carroll County and Sierra Vista, Arizona, we were an emotionally close family.

I went to visit them a few years ago and they managed to travel back to Maryland several times over the last 10 years. In September 1991, they returned for my wedding; just this past September, they returned for another visit. . . . For that time together, I will always be grateful. We took turns every month calling each other, as well as mailing letters, news articles and special treats such as Utz chips and Tastykakes (which aren't available in Arizona). Several times over the years, we also managed to ship Chesapeake Bay crabs to them for steaming.

Forgive me for digressing, but I have such good memories of those two fine people, and I just don't want to let go. . . .

No matter what the outcome of the judicial proceedings against the man who killed them, there is no way he can feel the pain and suffering he has caused. We must force our judicial system to respond to the crime of drunk driving for what it actually is; when death is involved, it is murder, plain and simple. Even if no one else is involved; even if there is no collision, the drunk driver is still capable of taking the life of every innocent person on our highways.

As a police officer, I have, in the past, given thought to joining Mothers Against Drunk Driving, simply because I believed in their cause. I have seen the pain on the faces of the families of victims of a drunk driver. And I have seen the court system let those people down, when probation is often the sentence. . . .

If this accident had occurred in Maryland, the maximum penalty would be five years for vehicular manslaughter. It would be a rare case indeed where the drunk driver (murderer) would actually serve the full five years. If judges and juries would be forced to witness the funerals of victims of drunk drivers and see the pain inflicted on families and friends, perhaps then, the drunk driver would be viewed more realistically. The drunk driver chooses to drink, then get behind the wheel of a potentially deadly weapon and expose many innocent victims to a game of Russian roulette. . . .

To those of you who may have already been charged with driving while intoxicated or under the influence: If you didn't kill or maim anyone, be grateful and show your gratitude by supporting MADD. If you have killed or maimed someone, you will have to live with that knowledge, if you can. I urge everyone who reads this article to support your local MADD chapter. If you don't have the time, give the money; if you don't have the money, give the time. . . .

Colleen J. Stiles

Westminster

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