Recently I learned an old friend of mine passed away, in what is suspected to be a drunk driving accident.
I was 11-years-old the first time I lost someone in my life due to an alcohol related incident involving a car.
I was 15 years old when a student I went to high school with flipped a Jeep Wrangler, leaving the friends in his car with serious injuries. A close friend of mine made the choice to not get in the car that night.
I was 17 years old, a month away from the start of my junior year of high school when my dad made the poor decision of riding his motorcycle after having a few too many drinks.
I will never forget getting out of my friend’s pool, looking down at my phone, and seeing an Instagram DM from my dad’s friend. “Call me as soon as you see this, your dad’s been in a very bad accident,” appeared on my screen and my heart dropped. My mom isn’t in my life, my dad is all that I have.
I knew my dad had taken his motorcycle out for a ride that morning, as he usually did on his days off. He would go and grab a drink with his buddies and go for a ride. What’s the harm in one drink anyway? I always told my dad to ride safely, so of course he would. He was always a very cautious driver. And he would always make sure to tell me he loved me before he left, I always said it back.
For some reason that day, he didn’t. I must have still been asleep when he left, I used to sleep very late into the day. It was the most awful realization. He had been out all day and so had I, we hadn’t spoken. When I found myself sitting in a car on the way to the hospital, this was all I could think of. Something awful had happened to someone who meant so much to me, and I hadn’t told them I loved them that day.
I got to that hospital room, in a unit of the hospital with higher intensive care than the ICU– known as the “red zone” trauma unit. My brother and I stood at the bedside and looked at each other. This was bad. He had been airlifted to the hospital via helicopter, he had broken 36 bones in his body. He is lucky to be alive. We overheard the doctors mention something about blood alcohol content. Dad had been drinking, but he had to get home to us. He should have never chosen to drive, let alone ride his motorcycle, but he must have planned to only have a drink or two. Plans change.
According to the NCDAS 2023 analysis, 125 drunk driving fatalities have occurred in New Jersey this year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “13,384 people died in alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths — a 14% increase from 2020.” A CDC study has found that about 1.5% of New Jersey drivers have reported they will drive after having too much to drink at least once in a month.
It is obviously always a conversation; it is something we know not to do. We say we’ll never drive drunk until we do. I have always told myself I would never drive after having even one drink, I’ve seen the repercussions. But I’ve done it, I’ll have a beer or two over the course of two hours and drive. I won’t be over the legal limit, and I won’t feel drunk. What’s the harm?
I have heard friends make jokes about drinking and driving, they’ll call it a “humble booze cruise.” It’s okay if you get home safe and don’t get caught.
I’ve heard stories of roommates hitting other roommates’ cars because they had been drinking and driving. They made it home safe, but at what cost?
As a senior in college, I have borne witness to the rising nonchalant attitudes to the seriousness of drunk driving. College culture is alcohol culture. When you go to a party you drink, when you hang out with friends you drink, when you watch a game you drink, when you’re bored you drink. It’s everywhere.
In an age where we have apps to order Ubers, Lyfts, and cabs, the excuses to drink and drive dry up quickly. We even have a similar service run by Rowan students: Wag’s Wheels. There is no excuse to drink and drive. If you are going out, even if you plan on only having one drink, don’t risk it. Walk when you can, order a car, call a friend, or get a designated driver.
As fun as alcohol is, it is a dangerous and potentially addictive substance. The fines and possibility of losing your license are not worth it. The possibility of hurting yourself or others is not worth it. Giving your family and friends a mere inkling of worry is certainly never worth it.
While I may have my own reasons as to why I chose to not drink that often, as well as my own reasons that driving after even one drink feels wrong. Not everyone has this. Some people don’t think twice about getting behind the wheel after a few drinks. Some people never had family members who have gotten killed or injured due to drunk driving.
This is my plea, and I am begging you, take that second to think before you drink. Figure out your ride or plan safe ways to get home. Drink responsibly and do so in places you feel safe. Once fun crosses into dangerous territories, it is not worth it.
And always tell those you care about that you love them. Life is too short, and tragedy strikes every day.
With a plethora of Halloween parties coming, and with the holidays and the new year which are right around the corner, this is the best time to spread this message. There will be a lot of drinking and traveling occurring these next few months, so make smart choices and stay safe.
Losing someone due to an alcohol-related accident leaves a want to blame when all you can blame is a substance and a spur-of-the-moment decision. Don’t leave it up to chance. Drink safely and drive sober.
For comments/questions about this story, DM us on Instagram @thewhitatrowan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.