All you have to do is take one look at the picture of the fatal car crash from two weeks ago Madison County, IN., involving a police officer that took the life of a young father and critically injured the mother (in her ninth month of pregnancy) to be sickened at the horror of it. The sad reality is that picture is only the beginning of life changes that will occur from the choice that the officer made to drive impaired. The lives that will be affected by the choice will be many and much of it will filter down through generations. A man was lost. A husband, father, son, grandson, peer, loved one, a human being with a hope for the future, an individual. His name was Jesse. I didn’t know him personally and yet I do. I know him in the stories that I hear at impact panel meetings where I routinely speak. When speaking with offenders about how fortunate I am to have my son alive after being hit by a drunk driver in 2011, some tough issues about choices, alternatives, and time are discussed. The social disease of impaired driving (alcohol or drugs) is robbing “time” from our lives. Time with those we love, time that was supposed to be the victim’s choice in how they spent their lives. Offenders that choose to drive impaired are robbing others of their rights to safety, time and chances at a life they have worked hard to create and deserve as humans.
The victims of drunk driving are following rules. The offenders are not and yet we are very fast to forget. Is it because of how it may inconvenience us as individuals? Maybe we will have to ask someone to drive us home? Maybe we will have to pay for a cab instead of that one last cocktail or beer. Perhaps we feel entitled to do what we want, much of our lives have become about immediate gratification and zero boundaries. Maybe as hosts we don’t want to appear as if we are policing by saying, “hey if you are having a glass of wine, who is going to be your designated driver” and take it seriously.
This is a social plague and until we start expecting responsibility in individual’s choices and consequences, we will continue to see fatalities like this. Fatal drunk driving crashes are up by 10% in Indiana. So for all the teaching that we are attempting and modeling positive adult behaviors that clearly say “do not get behind a wheel drugged” are failing. We can legislate tougher laws, rules, and implement; however, it will not solve the issue until it is socially not acceptable to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The environment (people) must not encourage the behavior with a blind eye and passivity and hope that it will be policed and legislated to control the issue.
While no one has all the answers, there are ways that we can encourage and expect choices to be made that allow individuals accountability. People know how they are getting home when they go to a bar or a party. Taxis cost less than or the same as a mixed drink. People have friends to call. Bars can have car services to taxi people home. People generally know when a loved one is using/abusing medication. The message isn’t that you can’t have a drink, it is that you can’t drink or use drugs and get behind the wheel of a vehicle that can potentially be a lethal weapon.
What can you do? More volunteers are needed in organizations like Madd (Mothers against drunk drivers, which is an organization for everyone, not just MOMs) to shore up our resources and to encourage education at an early age with behavior choices that will lead to responsible laws. Ignition Interlocks are a responsible way to provide changed behavior over time. If you are choosing to ignore the needed social changes ask yourself the question, why? Has it not affected you yet when 1 out of 3 families will be affected by a drunk driving crash in their lifetime? Currently 1 out of 4 drivers on the roadway at any given time are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. OR is it an inconvenience to you personally? Will you be forced to alter your own behaviors? I don’t believe that anyone truly “wants” to make such a deadly choice in their life. No one certainly “chooses” to be the victim that turns into far more than one person being affected. Please value life enough to call someone and start taking keys away from people that you see are impaired or call law enforcement. Don’t participate in the fatality. Be a part in saving lives.
For more information on Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (Madd) check website www.Madd.org