Some lessons are never fully learned. Young people still take up cigarettes, even knowing as best as young people can -- that they will probably become addicted and could even die, painfully and prematurely. People still have unprotected sex with multiple partners, despite the real threat of potentially fatal consequences. And drivers still get behind the wheel after drinking too much alcohol.
The consequences of that last problem have been on display in courtrooms this week, as one man fights charges that his drinking and texting are the reasons he struck and killed a skateboarding teenager, and a woman who was driving drunk was sentenced for an accident that injured two boys.
The man is Dr. James G. Corasanti of Getzville, who struck and killed Alexandria "Alix" Rice last July after spending six hours socializing and playing golf. Police say he was drunk. His lawyer says Corasanti "was not affected by anything that he had to drink that night." Police say he was also texting at the time of the accident.
A jury will decide whether Corasanti is guilty of second-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, leaving the scene of an incident without reporting resulting in death, and tampering with physical evidence.
The woman is Amy J. Schumacher of Royalton. She pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree vehicular assault and one count of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated, stemming from an accident last May in which she ran down two teenage boys while reaching for a cellphone. She was luckier than the boys she injured, drawing a sentence of four months of weekends in jail and five years' probation. Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas feared more for Schumacher's young children -- she is a single mother -- than Schumacher did for them, or anyone else, when she got behind the wheel.
Yet the word "accident" is insufficient to describe tragedies such as these. Deaths and injuries caused by drunken or impaired drivers are not really accidents, any more than is a bullet hole that appears after aiming a gun at someone and pulling the trigger, even if unintentionally. Such injuries lie within the range of predictable consequences of conduct universally recognized as reckless. And the injuries can be grim.
Rice died instantly. The details of her death are terrible and don't need to be repeated. Schumacher put Anthony Sammarco into a coma for five weeks, and he still suffers from head injuries. Christian Shufelt suffered a leg injury.
The public, perhaps understandably, hasn't heard much from Corasanti about what happened, though testimony suggests he was distraught. There seems little doubt about the depth of Schumacher's grief and regret, which are by all accounts profound. They are but two in a long line. Drinking and driving remains a social condition that, for all of the changes in perception over the past several decades, remains too acceptable to too many people. As if to prove the point, a juror in Corasanti's trial was arrested Thursday on a charge of driving while intoxicated.
And tonight, more people will be behind the wheel, driving drunk. Even though we have been warned. Again.