|Sean Foard (via SLCSO)|
In the study, published online June 20th in the journal Addiction, researchers analyzed national data on fatal car accidents in the United States between 1994 and 2008. The database, obtained from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), is both voluminous and comprehensive; it included 1,495,667 people involved in alcohol-related vehicle mishaps covering all U.S. counties, all days of the week and all times of day, and all reports on blood-alcohol content in increments of 0.01. Thus the sample size and composition seems to be beyond reproach.
Conclusions: No amount of alcohol seemed to be safe for driving. Even with barely detectable amounts of alcohol in a driver's blood, there were 4.33 serious injuries for every non-serious injury versus 3.17 serious injuries for sober drivers. In addition, the study indicated that accidents are 36.6 percent more severe even when alcohol was barely detectable in a driver's blood. Researchers also suggested that there are three ancillary factors that might explain their findings. Comparing sober drivers to those driving with a so-called "buzz", buzzed drivers are more likely to speed, more likely to be improperly seat-belted and more likely to drive the striking vehicle, all of which are associated with greater severity in an accident.
Recommendation: Researchers seem to be sold on the idea that lowering the predominant U.S. threshold of 0.08 for legal intoxication is the answer, citing lower thresholds in Germany (0.05), Japan (0.03) and Sweden (0.02) as supporting justification.
Alas, just one day before the USA Today story was published, 35-year-old Sean Foard provided additional validation for the study in the Salt Lake Valley. On June 30th, Foard triggered a five-vehicle mishap when he ran a red light at the intersection of 5400 South and 2700 West in Taylorsville. Foard was driving west on 5400 South, ran the red light, struck a southbound vehicle on 2700 West, then veered off and struck the vehicle of Cynthia Davis Eyre, which was northbound on 2700 South. Eyre's vehicle then went airborne and hit a fourth vehicle driven by Scott Smith, who was stopped at the red light. A subsequent KSL story states there was a fifth vehicle affected; no additional details provided. KTVX reports that three of the vehicles ended up piled on top of each other and completely crushed. Initial KSL news video embedded below:
Sean Foard was initially taken to a local hospital to be treated for injuries. He was later released and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of felony automobile homicide, felony DUI causing serious bodily injury and a misdemeanor red light violation. But here's the kicker -- Foard reportedly told investigators that he only had "a couple of drinks of straight vodka" prior to the accident, according to a Salt Lake County Jail report. He said he only remembered leaving his house and waking up in the ambulance. However, witnesses in the area report Foard was driving erratically and aggressively before the mishap.
If Foard is telling the truth, then that would tend to validate the UCSD study. Only two drinks may be enough to make you feel "bulletproof" behind the wheel and cause you to drive in a more risky fashion, particularly if it's hard liquor on an empty stomach.
Making DUI thresholds more stringent is not the answer here; instead, punishing egregious violators more severely is necessary. While Foard did not have malice aforethought, he was obviously contemptuous of the public welfare. He may not have intended to take Cynthia Eyre's life -- but he did so anyway. And he cannot resurrect her.
If found guilty on all charges, the most appropriate punishment for Sean Foard would be life in prison WITHOUT PAROLE. We don't have the justification to give Foard's life back to God, but we do have the justification to give Foard's life to the state -- ALL OF IT. Anything less than a natural life sentence for Sean Foard would be contemptuous of the memory of Cynthia Eyre.