Actions speak louder than apology
Other than the fact that his careless and reckless actions killed two teenagers and severely injured two others, there’s nothing interesting about Dennis Drue.
If our actions define us, then Drue, 23, is defined by the fact that he chose to drive a car while drunk, high and texting. And by the pain he’s caused his victims, their families and friends.
At his sentencing last week, Drue apologized for his behavior for the first time.
“I need you to know that not a day goes by where I don’t feel sorrow for the pain that I’ve caused,” Drue said. “I never meant to hurt anybody, and to be the enemy feels terrible.”
I have no idea whether Drue is sincere. I’m not a mindreader. If he genuinely feels terrible, well, good. He should feel terrible.
But Drue’s feelings are of little interest. They don’t, in the scheme of things, matter.
What matters are Drue’s actions. What matters is his history of recklessness and callous disregard for other people. He never meant to hurt anybody? He drove a car while drunk, stoned and on his way to buy pot, according to prosecutors. What do his intentions matter?
Here’s something that matters: When Drue crashed into the four teenagers on the Northway last December, it marked the fifth time since 2007 that he had caused a vehicle accident. He had 22 prior traffic offenses, and his license had been suspended five times.
I think we can all agree that the world would be a better place if Drue had ever resolved to become a better driver. If he had thought, after the first, second, third or fourth accident he caused, “Hmmm, maybe I need to do things a little differently.” If he had ever viewed a license suspension as, say, an opportunity to change.
At his sentencing last week, Drue was ordered to serve five to 15 years in prison for his guilty plea to a 58-count indictment that includes charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault.
And I’m glad.
I’m also wondering: How many other Dennis Drues are out there?
How many other people get behind the wheel while drunk or stoned? How many other people drive too fast and send text messages while doing so? Because if Drue was the only person who ever did these things, public awareness campaigns aimed at reducing drunken driving, distracted driving and speeding wouldn’t exist.
Of course, at this point Drue’s notoriety makes him a good candidate to star in a public awareness campaign aimed at curbing all of these things.
It could be called “Don’t Be Like This Guy,” and feature photographs of him being led out of the Saratoga County courthouse by sheriff’s deputies after his sentencing.
Drue’s terrible driving record received an unusual level of scrutiny because he took the lives of two popular Shenendehowa High School students, Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers, and injured Shen student Matthew Hardy and Bailey Wind, a Shaker High School grad who now attends the University of Tennessee.
But dangerous drivers are everywhere.
Last week, an Albany woman named Shanikqua Thomas was sentenced to 18 years in prison for deliberately running over six people with a Ford Expedition in August. According to prosecutors, she had smoked crack and marijuana the day of the assault.
Like Drue, Thomas is not the sort of person I feel comfortable sharing the roads with. And I appreciate the fact I won’t have to, because she’s going to prison.
At Drue’s sentencing, Wind, Hardy and their parents delivered heart-wrenching statements. They told Drue he was a menace to society, and that his poor choices were responsible for great grief and suffering.
Regina Stewart, the mother of Chris Stewart, offered the hope of forgiveness, saying, “I will never have the pleasure of holding Christopher’s kids in my arms, but yours are in front of you, so focus your attention on them and not destructive behavior that pushes them away and embarrasses your whole family.”
Will Regina Stewart’s remarks have any impact on Drue? One would hope so. But only time — and his actions — will tell.
What matters is how Drue behaves the next time he’s behind the wheel of car.
Which, thankfully, is years in the future.