The announcement by Governor Deval Patrick to close all vehicular traffic at 4 p.m. is a smart response to a serious storm. That the penalty for violation could be up to a year of prison can only mean one thing: this is no joke. What is animating the seemingly harsh decision has much to do with convincing people to stay put which they should need no convincing to do, but to protect first responders who would be put in harm’s way should people ignore basic precautions. I’m all for it.
Let’s say someone goes for a Starbucks run in this weather. They get stranded in the snow or their car gets stuck in a snowbank. They call 911 because that is what anyone would do and expect to be saved. Local or state first responders will then be dispatched into this crazy weather, risking their lives just so that the victim could get their latte. Imagine, then, that a responder were to get hurt, hurt someone else or worse. There would be lawsuits against the driver who wanted that latte so, so bad. Chances are everyone would be represented by good lawyers, so there would be questions about whether the first responder was driving too fast, or hadn’t slept the night before, or whether – in the legalistic words – the rescuee was the proximite cause of the rescuer’s injuries or death. It would be ugly. And unnecessary. Because that latte wasn’t that important.