Until message is heard, carnage will repeat

If Ronald Jayne Jr. had decided to buy a handgun, go to UNLV and shoot five people to death, we’d be knee-deep in Virginia Tech-level media scrutiny of what he did and why, sparking a national debate on whether we need more guns or less guns or whatever.

If Jayne had blown up a bomb in a Strip parking garage, killing five people, he’d be the centerpiece of a real-life "CSI: Las Vegas"-style murder mystery eyed from coast to coast.

But, authorities allege, all Jayne did was get stinking drunk, roll through a stop sign and smash his speeding pickup into the side of an SUV, snuffing out five lives amid twisted steel and burning gasoline May 5.

Sure, it has riveted locals, for now. Jayne could go to jail for a long time, his 19-year life figuratively over before it really began.

For the dead, their lives are done, literally. There’s no parole from death.

And families on both sides of the wreck will never get over this. No small tragedy.

If the past is prologue, though, soon we’ll collectively shrug our shoulders and go back to finding out who was canoodling whom at Pure last weekend. That is, until the next time a young man gets blitzed, gets going, and gets to kill a bunch of other people.

I’d bet the mortgage that time will come, and come fairly soon.

"The sad thing is … I still see the drivers in this area doing the exact same behavior," Las Vegas police Detective William Redfairn, the lead investigator on the wreck, told Review-Journal reporter David Kihara last week. "And until the drivers in this town change their behavior, we’re going to continue to cover these tragedies.

"I wish I did have some magic words that I could say that would prevent this and put me out of a job," Redfairn said. "But unfortunately, having done this 10 years, I’ve said the same thing over and over and over again. And unfortunately, we have a hard-core group of people who just don’t want to get that message.

"And that message is very simple: Buckle up, don’t drink and drive, obey the traffic laws. If you can do that simple thing, you’ll stay alive and the members of this community will stay alive," Redfairn said.

"Don’t obey these simple rules, we’re going to meet, and you’re going to be facing the same kind of consequences that now this 19-year-old is facing. It’s that simple."

Still, if anybody learns a lesson from the May 5 tragedy, I’d be shocked.

After all, if the allegations against Jayne are true, he wasn’t deterred by the story of Sean Larimer. Remember him?

Larimer was 16 back in the fall of 2003, when he got drunk, got going, missed a turn, hit a wall and killed three of his friends who were riding along in his car.

Right after the wreck, there was big buzz about whether teen driving rules were too soft, if parents were making it too easy for kids to drink and drive, and if Larimer should be charged as an adult.

Then, the victims were buried, Larimer served his time behind bars, and the cautionary tale faded from the valley’s thoughts. Until now.

"It’s sad," Redfairn said. "We continue to cover these stories over and over and over again. It seems we only concentrate when we have multiple fatalities like this."

Asphalt agony happens every day. Redfairn alone investigated a trio of fatal wrecks in the week before Jayne’s fateful drive.

"They all had one thing in common," Redfairn said. "They didn’t have to happen."

It’s not like the idea that driving drunk and fast is bad is some closely guarded secret.

Society has had that advice posted on a big, blinking neon marquee for years now. And the threat of stiff sentences, heavy fines and long license suspensions has been an incentive to stay sober, even for those who honestly think they’re fine to drive after tipping back a few.

Larimer himself spent much, if not all, of his 600 hours of court-ordered community service work going to valley high schools and sharing his tale with young drivers like Jayne, in hopes of deterring a rerun.

I have no idea if Jayne was ever in Larimer’s audiences, but Larimer’s words obviously didn’t prevent Jayne’s wreck.

And surely there are folks out there who are dismissive of Jayne’s plight, believing they can safely drive when they’re sloppy drunk.

Or they ignore the fact that, in the hands of a wayward driver, a car turns from a way of getting around to a two-ton, poorly guided missile.

Or they don’t consider the consequences of anything they do, and just do it.

To them, the growing carnage on our streets is just some sort of a random goof-up.

"I can’t even watch the news without bitching at the cops through the TV," one person wrote on Jayne’s Myspace.com Internet social networking page. "We all know that this shouldn’t have happened to Ron."

True. It shouldn’t have happened to Jayne because, if the police version of events is correct, he shouldn’t have been behind the wheel. If true, whose fault is that? Did somebody reverse-carjack him and force him to drive that night?

I don’t know Jayne. He might be a great kid who genuinely regrets what happened, or he might be a jerk who couldn’t care less. But neither changes the reckless, dumb, selfish choices police say he made that night. That’s the way the world of grown-ups works.

"Your actions as a driver out there has far-reaching consequences than just your own life," Redfairn said. "Your actions on the roadway affect many, many people. And you have to live with your decisions."

In the end, Jayne’s tale isn’t an original story, just a warmed-over remake. We pull out the old script, scratch out "Larimer," replace it with "Jayne," and adjust the body count upward.

"The kid was drunk. Incredibly drunk," a witness told KVBC-TV, Channel 3. "When he got out of the truck, he said, ‘Wow, it’s going to be a world of hurt for me.’"

Once, that was Larimer’s world. Perhaps it still is. Someday, it’ll be someone else’s, too. Count on it.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call the Road Warrior at 387-2904, or e-mail him at roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com or OSofradzija@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number.

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