Addiction moves from a personal issue to a legal problem when an individual's dependence causes harm. An intoxicated bus driver risks her own life and the lives of passengers, motorists and pedestrians. A person willing to disregard her own safety is not thinking about yours.
Doctors debate whether addiction is a compulsive behavior or a disease. In either case, drivers with active drug or alcohol dependencies are a threat to anyone on or near a Cook County road.
Authorities north of Chicago are holding an out-of-state driver in jail on $500,000 bail for causing a fatal midday crash. The 26-year-old man's out-of-control vehicle hurtled over a curb and slammed into a pair of Waukegan pedestrians. The unidentified victims both suffered serious injuries; one died the following day.
Waukegan investigators said the man's car contained a substance that looked like heroin and drug paraphernalia. The slightly-injured man admitted he used heroin before the auto-pedestrian accident, but told authorities he remembered nothing about the crash. Officials stated the accused man was operating a vehicle with a revoked license, taken from him after DUI arrests in two states.
The Wisconsin resident faces Illinois charges for reckless homicide, drug and traffic violations and two aggravated DUI felonies -- one charge for the fatality and the other for "great bodily harm." A conviction for the repeat DUI offender is likely to extend well beyond a one-year mandatory prison term.
Drivers who use drugs or alcohol -- during a single act of overindulgence or to feed an all-consuming addiction -- are responsible for their actions. Criminal courts punish and sometimes order treatment for DUI offenders. Civil courts are concerned with monetary reparations for pedestrian accident victims and families deprived of loved ones.
Compensation is awarded in settlements before a civil trial or through damages, when juries are shown driver negligence led to an innocent party's injuries or death.
articles.chicagotribune.com, "Man held on $500k in fatal Waukegan accident" Deanese Williams-Harris, Oct. 26, 2013