Inspired by this thread:
In this thread relating to the recent drag-racing incident in Maryland where eight spectators were struck and killed by another car coming down the road, several posters opined that any moderate legal judgment handed out by the criminal justice system against the driver for a suspended license or other minor transgression of the traffic laws would pale in comparison to living with the guilt of having been behind the wheel of a vehicle that killed eight people.
I’m not so sure.
Somehow the ego soldiers on. Rationalization and self serving bias serves to further the inordinately popular view people hold of themselves as, on the whole, being on the sweet side of the virtue bell-curve. Even in situations where a person is overwhelmingly responsible for a death (murderers, drunk drivers, etc.), these people don’t seem particularly incapacitated by guilt. Perhaps that’s why they are capable of murdering or driving drunk in the first place, but I’m curious how translatable to people that accidentally kill others through little or no negligence of their own.
For myself, if I was confident that my own actions were reasonably responsible and that I hadn’t done anything to put other people at extraordinary risk, I’m not sure I’d have much difficulty getting over such an event. I do my best to drive in a safe and sensible manner by following traffic laws, following at a reasonable distance, avoiding driving under any impairment, and slowing down as road conditions or the presence of blind corners, pedestrians, or cyclists dictate. If it were still true that it wasn’t a mistake on my part or deviating from what is generally regarded as safe and prudent behavior when I was somehow responsible for someone’s death, I think I could put everything behind me in fairly short order. I can imagine quickly abandoning remorse for anger at the people that I might view (correctly or incorrectly) at bearing more culpability for the accident even for simply involving and inconveniencing me with the whole mess. I guess it might be uncouth to say that I could get over having killed someone, but in all honesty I think I could do it. Perhaps unfortunately, even in situations where I bore more responsibility, I suspect that I would be able to rationalize my way around it in a matter of months.
Do you believe this is true for you as well?
Have any anecdotes or data on the situation to share?