NEW JERSEY- This isn’t the easiest topic for anyone to talk about, regardless of if it’s affected your life or not. As difficult as it is—it’s real, and every single day, thousands of people are facing the consequences of someone else’s poor decision to drink and drive.
The amount of stories people have regarding drunk driving incidents is immeasurable. I can think of 15 people off of the top of my head who have lost someone they love to a drunk driver. And in my opinion, that’s way too many. I wish and hope that one day I can say that there are zero stories left of people who were taken by drunk drivers, but the likelihood of that is not incredibly high. However, I have full confidence that getting to that goal is possible if everyone supports what is right. The number of stories is too high, the number of deaths is too frequent and the amount of pain is too deep for people to not care about this issue.
My story is something I’ve come to be fairly comfortable talking about. It took about six years, a lot of acceptance and an immense amount of forgiveness to be OK with the circumstance. Almost eight years ago, my father was killed by a drunk driver—an off-duty police officer who was driving drunk after a night out partying. It’s strange for me to put that into a twenty-four-word sentence. It’s easy to write it and read it simplistically as a factual statement, but there’s so much more to it than you can ever imagine. There are years of legal battles, years of questions, years of anger and years of heartbreak.
I can only assume that people who have lost someone to a drunk driver can be feeling the same way that I do. I think of the man who did this to my father more often than I’d like to admit. Ever since that day eight years ago, I always wonder what I would do if I met him, what I would say. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve slowly learned to find that his entire presence as a human being is irrelevant. He is one of the worst types of people in the world, and he has to live with that guilt every single day. Who knows, maybe he feels no guilt at all, but it’s not my problem to care about him anymore. My problem is to change how important people find drinking and driving, and it should be yours too.
This topic is much larger than mine or anyone else’s personal story. This is a society and cultural issue. As I’ve gotten older and have experienced all of high school, and almost all of college at this point, it baffles me how many people find this issue not to be immensely important. It sickens me how many times I’ve heard people openly say, “I drive way better when I’m drunk." How can someone even think that sentence, let alone say it out loud. Yet, I’ve heard that countless times. I become more and more disappointed in my generation as I hear things like that being said more often. Of course, there’s a large amount of people who are not like that, but how can there be any at all?
Just to let it sink in how serious this is, here are a few facts from the NHTSA that may leave you questioning how deep this problem is rooted.
1. Every day in America, another 27 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes.
2. In 2013, 28.7 million people admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol.
3. In 2014, 9,967 people died in drunk driving crashes, one every 53 minutes, and 290,000 were injured in drunk driving crashes.
4. On average, two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.
These facts are unfathomable. So challenge and truly beg anyone who almost drinks and drives to ask themselves these questions before they get in the driver’s seat. What would your family do if they lost you? What loved one could you take away from another family? Whose life will you ruin from this? What blood will be on your hands, yours or someone else’s?
To be so selfish in risking taking someone else’s life or our own is easily avoidable. It’s not worth it. Call a cab, request an uber, get on a train or a bus or walk. The blisters on your feet or the withdrawal of $20 from your bank account will always be worth sparing an innocent person’s life or your own. Please, let’s collectively try to live in a world where people have the social conscience to not drink and drive. Let’s save millions of people's lives and the lifelong pain of losing someone they love to a reason that has no depth other than an irresponsible decision.
Emily Marques, of Berkeley Heights, NJ is seekeing a Degree in Marketing & Communications at Bryant University.