Jennifer Ginsberg: Amy Locane, the former "Melrose Place" actress who also starred in "Cry-Baby" and "School Ties," has been charged with second-degree vehicular homicide and third-degree assault by auto after an alleged drunk-driving crash Sunday night in Hopewell, New Jersey, where she lives with her husband and two young daughters (Paige, 3, and Avery, 1).
Prior to the deadly 9:00 PM crash, Locane was reportedly involved in a hit-and-run at a nearby intersection. She allegedly rear-ended a car, then drove off in her SUV, knocking down several mailboxes. As a couple was turning into their driveway, Locane struck their vehicle, killing noted art historian Helene Seeman. (Seeman's youngest son, Curtis, 17, was with her when she died.) Seeman's husband Fred, 60, is hospitalized in serious condition.
After the fatal crash, Locane admitted to police that she had had several glasses of wine prior to driving, according to court papers. (Her husband owns a wine shop and is a wine educator.) Officers allegedly smelled alcohol on her breath and reported that her speech was slurred and her eyes were bloodshot. She was arrested and transferred to University Medical Center in Princeton, where she underwent a blood-alcohol test. Bail was set at $50,000; if convicted, Locane could face five to 10 years in state prison.
I am certain that upon hearing this story, most people will feel rightful anger and horror. If there is anything we can learn from this horrific incident, let it be that alcohol and driving DO NOT mix. Even small amounts of alcohol alter one's judgment and ability to drive a car.
But I am equally certain that many other people will look at the mugshot of Amy Locane and know that it easily could've been them. Most people who drive drunk think they are sober enough to drive safely, and they usually get away with it. The lucky ones get arrested before they maim or kill another person while driving drunk.
It is easy to demonize one woman who behaved so recklessly and selfishly when she made the drunken choice to get behind the wheel. How about shifting the focus off the question of her morality and taking the opportunity to examine our own behavior? It is hypocritical to condemn one woman whose conduct under the influence resulted in a dramatic and horrific outcome, yet rationalize those times we drive after having one too many or popping a pill to "take the edge off."
If you look at Amy Locane and think, "There but by the grace of God go I," then make a commitment to NEVER get behind the wheel while under the influence.
Whatever it takes.