I really don’t understand why folks continue to drink and drive after so many years of focused efforts by schools, police, government, and social service agencies to send the message of how disturbingly dangerous it is. I thought when the laws relating to driving under the influence were stiffened that the potential penalties would substantially curb the behavior. I thought that when we started to see a national trend of prosecutors pursuing homicide charges against drunk drivers who were the cause of others’ deaths it signaled yet another penalty escalation that would deter folks from driving while drunk. I guess I thought wrong.
Four people died on a North Dakota highway on Friday evening – a family of three and a young man. The family of three – Allison (36), Aaron (34), and Brielle (18 months) Deutscher were hit by Wyatt Klein (28) who was driving the wrong way on the highway. It has been reported that authorities believe alcohol was a factor in Klein’s wrong way driving.
The Deutscher family (from The Forum)
A lot of folks are grieving now…grieving the choices of Wyatt and the unfortunate circumstances that put the Deutscher family in his path. What a horrific loss this is and what a startling reminder of how dangerous drinking and driving can be.
Yet, so many still do it. So many think they can manage drinking and driving and set out on the road without an appreciation of the potential costs of that one decision. Putting an impaired person behind the wheel of a vehicle begs for human injury – the driver or other unfortunate souls who are in the driver’s path.
Drinking and driving is a challenging issue year-round, but it is worse in the summer. During the summer when weather and road conditions are good (and drinking at parties, festivals, or the lakes is an almost daily event), drinkers who drive tend to believe that they can more easily manage the drive. They think they can manage the risk; and, as such, the roads and highways become much more dangerous places.
Take a moment and think about the losses of Wyatt Klein and the Deutschers – these deaths did not need to occur. These occurred because of impaired driving.
Do you drink and drive on occasion? Try something for me please.
1. Print off the Deutscher family’s photo and keep it in your vehicle.
2. Every single time you drink and get behind the wheel you look at that family before you put your key in the ignition.
3. You take a minute and think – if you drive while in an impaired state you could kill a family just like the Deutschers.
4. Even if you start to rationalize that it is highly improbable that anyone will be hurt because you are only going a short distance and you think you are fine to drive – know that you are not fine – you are impaired.
5. Reach into your sensible mind and recognize that impaired drivers at the best have slowed reaction times, and at worst become a time bomb for other drivers on the road.
6. Realize that you don’t want to hurt or kill yourself or others – put away those keys and call a cab, sleep it off, call a friend, etc.
I am sure that Wyatt Klein didn’t set out Friday to kill himself and a family of three, but it happened. If you drink and drive the same thing could happen to you. Be smart – if you drink, don’t drive. Not only is it against the law, it evidences a reckless disregard for human life (your own and others).
The loss of four folks on a North Dakota highway because of drinking and driving is an inexcusable tragedy. Allowing this type of behavior to continue in society is unacceptable – don’t do it and don’t let others do it.
Look at that photo again – that could be your family or friends – this could be your nightmare to live. Incorporate their grief in your psyche and let it be forever tied to your view of the costs of impaired driving.
My condolences to all the families for the crushing loss they have experienced…may you find some peace in this trying time.
Day one thousand and ninety-eight of the new forty – obla di obla da