Tragedy strikes every day and everyone has a different definition for what a tragedy is. To me tragedy can mean a lot of things, but in this case I am talking about a woman losing her life. The day after Christmas. Because of a drunk driver. Who after 4 DUI convictions STILL HAD A VALID LICENSE! How did this happen? That’s the question on a lot of people’s lips today.
You can read the full story on The Burlington Free Press website. The basic gist? 52 year old Timothy Dowd was pulled over for running not one but TWO stop signs. As the officer approached his vehicle, he sped off. He was in downtown Burlington, a popular area for traffic – both vehicular & pedestrian. At speeds sometimes exceeding 50 MPH (and several more stop signs and stop lights ignored) he tried to elude police but failed miserably when he slammed into Kathryn “Kaye” Borneman’s car and killed her instantly. His blood alcohol level 4 hours after the crash was .071. The legal limit is 0.08. They are working on determining his level of intoxication at the time of the crash (he refused any alcohol analysis at the scene – apparently an innocent woman’s death & his prior 4 convictions still gave him this option?) but my assumption is he was shitfaced.
Regardless, I want to know how a man who has been convicted FOUR TIMES of Driving Under the Influence can legally obtain a license. Yes, only 1 of those was in Vermont (2 were in New York and the other in Pennsylvania) but don’t those records haunt you wherever you go? They should! His reasons for not pulling over were silly: he was driving the car of an acquaintance; he was unfamiliar with the area; the car’s brakes & mirrors were bad; he was in pajamas (yes, he cited that as reason for not pulling over!). And yes, he is sorry (he told police he no longer wished to live) but he also stated that “I don’t get behind the wheel of a car and drive drunk, I don’t do it, it’s not my style…circumstances happened tonight, that, you know, I found myself in bad circumstances.” Excuse me?! I think the four DUI convictions you have speak differently!
This story infuriates me for so many reasons. There’s the obvious things that I have discussed such as how does a man like Dowd legally possess a driver’s license (while I don’t because my inspection/registration were expired – hence my bus riding for the last three months) but there are other things. Like the friend I lost to a drunk driver in 1999. He was walking home from a party (where everyone was too drunk to drive him – he was sober and without a car) and he was hit so hard by a car that when he was thrown down an embankment, his shoes stayed behind. It was all terribly horrific as any young, unexpected death is. It’s something that has stayed with me and I’m sure most of my classmates in the 10+ years since it happened.
Another reason I am outraged is because so many people are trying to place blame on the Burlington Police Department – as if they had a hand in Kaye’s death. Excuse me?! What are you smoking (and will you share?)? Yes, this is the second time a police chase has ended in a crash in 6 months. But saying the police are to blame is in effect saying that we don’t need them to do their job. They can sit around the station eating donuts and watching grainy surveillance footage – just don’t pull people over for suspicious behavior because then you might chase them and then THEY might crash into someone and kill them. Hell no! Timothy Dowd was scared of getting in trouble again (maybe he should have thought about that BEFORE he got behind the wheel of car while he was DRUNK!) so he ran. He was concerned only with saving himself. The officers chasing him? Put their lives on the line Sunday night too. How about that?
So yes, this all could have been avoided. If Timothy Dowd would have put down the Shiraz or not picked up the car keys. There is nothing BPD could have done differently (based on the facts we have) to help make sure an innocent life was not senselessly lost. If nothing else, please let this serve as a reminder. Do NOT get behind the wheel of a car if you have had too much to drink. I know it’s easier said than done. I also know that I have made my share of silly mistakes over the years. But, this New Year’s Eve, remember that it’s not just you on the road. If you drink, you put everyone else on the road at risk too. Please be safe this holiday season and all through the year. XO