Drinking and Driving - Will Your Child Become a Statistic? by C. Bailey-Lloyd
Just two days ago, another 15-year old child was added to overwhelming statistics of drunk-driving, related deaths. One minute, he's full of vitality and attending our local high school, next his unsuspecting parents are identifying him in a local morgue. The harsh reality of this brutal scenerio is sometimes very difficult to comprehend.
"Where did I go wrong?" "Didn't I talk enough with my child?" "I thought he knew better..." "I assumed he was just at a friend's house..."
These, and various other queries, are all similar questions parents tend to ask themselves after an incident or accident involving DUI or DWI (Driving Under Influence, or Driving While Intoxicated).
According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism),
* Parents' drinking behavior and favorable attitudes about drinking have been positively associated with adolescents' initiating and continued drinking. (NIAAA, 1997)
* Youth who drink before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21. (NIAAA, 1997)
* Underage drinkers are responsible for between 10 and 20 percent of all alcohol consumed in United States. (NAS, 2003)
* In 2002, 29 percent of 15 to 20-year-old drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes had been drinking. Twenty-four percent were intoxicated.
* Research continues to show that young drivers between 15 and 20 years old are more often involved in alcohol-related crashes than any other comparable age group. Alcohol-crash involvement rates, share of alcohol-crash problem and alcohol-crash risk all reach their peaks with young drivers, with peaks for fatal crashes occurring at age 21. (NHTSA, 2001)
* Based on latest mortality data available, motor vehicle crashes are leading cause of death for people from 15 to 20 years old. (NHTSA, 2003)
Of course, statistically speaking, list could go on and on. All too often, we as parents get caught up in daily grind of work, household chores, and other engagements. Sometimes we forget how to prioritize our committments. Ironically though, it is our teenage children who suffer from our own strategies on making their lives more comfortable.
John J. Berrio wrote a shocking but enlightening, infamous piece on teenage vehicular-related death based on a friend's son:
Agony claws my mind. I am a statistic. When I first got here I felt very much alone. I was overwhelmed by grief, and I expected to find sympathy.
I found no sympathy. I saw only thousands of others whose bodies were as badly mangled as mine. I was given a number and placed in a category. The category was called "Traffic Fatalities."
The day I died was an ordinary school day. How I wish I had taken bus! But I was too cool for bus. I remember how I wheedled car out of Mom. "Special favor," I pleaded. "All kids drive." When 2:50 p.m. bell rang, I threw my books in locker ... free until tomorrow morning! I ran to parking lot, excited at thought of driving a car and being my own boss.
It doesn't matter how accident happened. I was goofing off -- going too fast, taking crazy chances. But I was enjoying my freedom and having fun. The last thing I remember was passing an old lady who seemed to be going awfully slow. I heard a crash and felt a terrific jolt. Glass and steel flew everywhere. My whole body seemed to be turning inside out. I heard myself scream.
Suddenly, I awakened. It was very quiet. A police officer was standing over me. I saw a doctor. My body was mangled. I was saturated with blood. Pieces of jagged glass were sticking out all over. Strange that I couldn't feel anything. Hey, don't pull that sheet over my head. I can't be dead. I'm only 17. I've got a date tonight. I'm supposed to have a wonderful life ahead of me. I haven't lived yet. I can't be dead.
Later I was placed in a drawer. My folks came to identify me. Why did they have to see me like this? Why did I have to look at Mom's eyes when she faced most terrible ordeal of her life? Dad suddenly looked very old. He told man in charge, "Yes, he's our son."
The funeral was weird. I saw all my relatives and friends walk toward casket. They looked at me with saddest eyes I've ever seen. Some of my buddies were crying. A few of girls touched my hand and sobbed as they walked by.
Please, somebody -- wake me up! Get me out of here. I can't bear to see Mom and Dad in such pain. My grandparents are so weak from grief they can barely walk. My brother and sister are like zombies. They move like robots. In a daze. Everybody. No one can believe this. I can't believe it, either.
Please, don't bury me! I'm not dead! I have a lot of living to do! I want to laugh and run again. I want to sing and dance. Please don't put me in ground! I promise if you give me just one more chance, God, I'll be most careful driver in whole world. All I want is one more chance. Please, God, I'm only 17.
By, John Berrio _____________________________________________________________
This well-known story has been circulated across globe. Also known as "Dead at 17," and "Please God, I'm Only 17" is a stanching piece that has hailed teenagers and parents alike.
As a ritual, this literature is ground into core of my thought processes. Not too long ago, we were all faced with enticements of "...let's go to that party...", "...come, on...it's only a few miles up road. He's not drunk...he's only had a few beers...." "Sure she can drive...she's done this a million times before..." And all too often, teenagers fall to peer pressure because they want to be cool, popular or part of "in-crowd." Sadly, many do become victims of psychological pressure tactics.