The beginning of the end

You may have noticed that in this blog, I don’t include a lot of gruesome images of car accidents. First of all, I’m too much of a wimp to look at them so I don’t see how I’d post them for you. But more importantly, I’m not trying to scare you–I’m trying to empower you. My goal isn’t to scare you into making a change, it’s to empower you so you want to make a change. Even if it starts by you just reading through this blog, or by making an effort to plan safe rides home, or giving you the support you need to say something to a friend. It begins with you.

The change I want this blog to accomplish is for Chapman’s SafeRide program to get rid of their boundaries and limits: both in distance and time. I want Randy Burba, the chief of Public Safety, to make SafeRide accessible whenever and wherever. I want them to hire responsible students to work as drivers, and for it to be a paid job. Finally, I want an email sent to every student on campus announcing this change and providing information to the SafeRide program.

Eventually, I want every campus to implement a SafeRide program. And every town. I want anyone and everyone anywhere and everywhere to be able to get a safe ride home whenever and wherever they want if they don’t have one. Because ultimately, I want no drunk drivers on the road.

We have a long road to get there…

Drunk driving will impact 1 in 3 of us.

Every minute, one person is injured from an alcohol-related crash.

On average somebody dies as a result of drunk driving every 45 minutes in the United States.

Nearly 40% Americans are involved in an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash in their lifetime.

An average drunk driver has driven drunk 87 times before first arrest.

Teen alcohol use kills about 6000 people each year, more than all illegal drugs combined.
One in three 8th graders drinks alcohol.

Young men under the legal drinking age (18 to 20) are found driving while impaired due to ingestion of alcohol more frequently than any other age group

50 to 75% of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license.

…but we can do it.

I encourage you to take away from this blog and make a difference. I mean it when I say it starts with you: you have the power to speak up, whether it means saying something to your friends, your school, your classmates, even yourself. No one wants to lose someone they love, and I hope this blog has given you that extra support to say “I love you too much to lose you”: however you do that is up to you.

You have the power to make a change for the better.

Thank you for reading my blog!

Story Time

My original intent for this post of my blog was to share with you other people’s stories. But I’ve come to realize that many of you have probably heard tragic stories involving the deaths of friends and family, or read my own. And if you ask people about their experiences and stories with drunk driving, chances are they will have one. It’s the sad truth.

But instead of sharing other people’s stories, I’m going to share another one of my experiences. Not because I’m narcissist (because we all are, shout-out to Cory O’Connor), but because I’m hoping you will be able to relate and gain something from it. It isn’t a sad story, and it doesn’t have a bad ending. However, you might have had a very similar experience (or many experiences) with it.

My freshman year my friend Courtney* would binge drink every night she went out. On one particular night, we went to a house party and she was all over the place. When she drinks, she goes off on her own (much like most drunk people do) and likes to be Ms. Independent. She decided she was sick of the scene, and tried to leave. (This was one of my first experiences trying to stop someone from driving home drunk) I tried to talk her out of it, and tried to get her other friends to tell her to stop. But she prevailed. I got her keys from her at one point, and she even got them back after I handed them to someone else. I finally told someone to watch her and make sure she doesn’t go out the front door to drive home. And then, she went out the back door and drove home. My other friend and I freaked out and drove to where she lived just to make sure she got home OK. She was fine. The next day, to my shock, she didn’t seem apologetic. Or remorseful. Instead, she was pissed I even tried to take her keys. For awhile, other people tried to stop her from driving drunk too. I walked with her a lot to prevent her from driving drunk, but I wasn’t always there. People gave up pretty fast. It is now common knowledge that she “drives drunk all the time”. For three years, I always made other suggestions, tried to make other arrangements, tried to talk her out of it, and refused to ride with her.           (*Name has been changed)

You guessed it, it didn’t do shit.

People ride with her knowing she’s drunk all the time. No one says anything. Everyone has just “gotten used to it”. She “gets home fine”. What about the day she doesn’t get home fine?

I felt like I made a fool of myself the first time I tried to get her not to drive home. Sure, other people made somewhat of an effort to stop her too, but no one wants to be the safe friend. That’s just it. No one wants to be the party pooper, the one who brings a serious topic in when everyone’s just having fun. But guess what, no one wants to lose a friend either. So you have to choose which one is more important to you.

I’m not asking you to cause a scene with your friend. I’m asking you to never get used to someone you care about drunk driving. Speak up. Speak now (thanks t-swift). Chances are, the reason your friend is still doing it is because no one has said anything. Don’t make excuses, say something. Be the friend who cares enough to say something. It’s a risk standing up to your friend, but it’s an even bigger risk letting them leave without saying a word. Even not getting in the car with them speaks volumes. If all of Courtney’s friends refused to ride with her, I think it would make a big difference. Don’t be like them, you are much stronger than that. You are a better friend than that. And I have faith that if you are agreeing with me, you will be a part of a positive change for our generation.

I believe in you.

Profile Pic that Mugshot

Coming to a city near you: your mugshot on facebook. No really, I’m not kidding. I thought I’d update you on some recent politics regarding drunk driving. In Huntington Beach, CA one council member had proposed to start posting the names and faces of repeat drunk driving offenders on facebook to shame them in the hopes that they’d change. His first goal was to post photos of all accused of DUI’s in California.

Don’t worry, it’s not going to happen, at least not right now. Police actually opposed the plan, saying it wasn’t ethical for multiple reasons. However, it seems Huntington Beach is trying to do something about their drunk drivers–it is the highest ranking in the state for alcohol related traffic deaths among cities of similar size.

California itself is among the leading states in the nation for drunk driving. Three of its worst ranking cities in 2009 are in Orange County: Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, and Newport Beach.

This chart shows the percentage of fatal traffic accidents that occur from drivers over the legal limit (.08%). Check out more rankings by state on the MADD website and a more comprehensive one here.

Good News

Here’s some good news for a change: the number of persons under 21 killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes has decreased (check out the  Under 21 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities chart). This is great to hear, although these fatalities account for 13% of the total alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in the U.S.

Let’s bring the number of people killed in alcohol-related crashes down to 0. Keep yourself safe, and keep the people you love safe.

DUI’s, DWI’s: FYI

One of my friends got a DUI, and trust me, it did NOT look like fun. I should know, I drove her the first day to fill out paperwork. For 2 hours. If you think they don’t care about you waiting when you are sick in the doctor’s office, wait until you actually do something wrong. Not to mention the fact that she got her license revoked, had to walk everywhere, beg for rides, and while doing that had to take a driving class and do community service.

So yes, not only is driving under the influence dangerous, it is also a big eff-ing hassle. Trust me, walking to get your car the next morning is like a trip to Disneyland compared to having to walk everywhere for the next year.

So don’t take the chance. Below is just some of the consequences if you live in California. It’s different in other states.

Zero tolerance laws

  • Administrative Penalties
    If you refuse to take a chemical test, or if your BAC is higher than 0.00%, your license will be suspended for 1 year
  • Criminal Penalties
    If you are convicted of DUI:

    • You may receive jail time and have to pay a fine
    • Your license will be revoked for one year or until you are 18, whichever is longer
    • The court may take away your vehicle for up to six months, and you will have to pay storage fees
  • In Court
    • $1200 fine.
    • 3 years probation (informal – no probation officer).
    • 3-5 days sheriff work alternative program (picking up trash, cleaning buses, etc.) OR
    • 90 license restriction (to start AFTER 4 months DMV suspension is over).
    • First Offender School (3/4 months long).
  • This is in addition to the four months immediate DMV suspension that starts 30 days after your driving under the influence stop.

    These two ACTIONS (court and DMV) are SEPARATE and do not influence one another. Many times someone gets their license back by going to the DMV hearing and then is convicted in the court. Or, the DA drops the charges and the DMV still suspends your license.

In case you didn’t know

DUI is an acronym for driving under the influence. DWI stands for driving while intoxicated. In some cases, depending on state law, the two terms are both used to describe impaired or drunken driving.

However, in states where both terms are used, DWI usually refers to driving while intoxicated of alcohol, while DUI is used when the driver is charged with being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Both charges mean the arresting officer has reason to believe the driver is too impaired to continue to drive. In some jurisdictions, drivers can be charged with driving under the influence even if they do not meet the blood alcohol concentration levels for legal intoxication. Yes, that means what you think: even if you are under a .08 and over 21, you can still receive a DUI.

Think before you drive. Is it worth the risk, and all this?

Don’t get MADD, get DADSS

If you read my last post, you know I mentioned MADD (and if you didn’t, you should). MADD, an acronym for “Mothers Against Drunk Driving”, is one of the most well-known non-profit organizations in America. I may have soiled their name a bit by talking about their old president first, but the truth is they are a great organization with great goals. According to their website, “since 1980 MADD has nearly saved 300,000 lives …and counting”. I don’t know how you measure how many lives you’ve saved, but so far they are doing better than superman with those stats.

MADD currently has 3 campaigns running, that I thought were pretty noteworthy. So, I thought I’d share them:

“In-Car Breathalyzers”

MADD supports the usage of ignition interlock devices, or in-car breathalyzers, which require all convicted drunk drivers to prove they are sober before the car will start. It’s an interesting approach: drivers who have a history of drunk driving have to prove they won’t do it again. The driver has to blow in to the device in order to start their vehicle.  If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the vehicle won’t start.

“Support our Heroes”

It may be difficult for some of us to call cops heroes when all they do is give us  speeding tickets (Or for you Chapman students, parking tickets). But they do also catch the “bad guys” and keep us safe on the road. MADD supports increased enforcement during high-risk holidays including Labor Day and New Year’s Eve to help get drunk drivers off the road, so you and your family can travel safely. Sobriety checkpoints are the most effective enforcement technique, reducing fatalities by 20 percent. That’s a pretty significant amount.

“Turn Cars into the Cure”

We now have cars that can parallel park themselves and come with anti-theft sensors. So why not ones that sense when a driver is inebriated? In 2006, MADD, the government, traffic safety advocates and members of the automotive industry created a panel to encourage and support the development of new technology that would stop drivers from operating a vehicle if their BAC is above .08.  The result was DADSS or Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety.  MADD and DADSS are now working together to make this a reality.

You are important to me. So I want to see what you think. Take this one question poll to give your own input as to which of these campaigns you like:


Practice what you Preach

Recently, I was talking to my roommates about their experiences with drunk driving. One of my roommates in particular is very sensitive about this subject: at the age of 12 she lost her brother, a passenger in a drunk driving accident.

However, one of my roommates talked about something that she took part in during high school that I had never heard of before. At her school, they had a program every two years in which they reenacted a drunk driving accident. It was a big event: students would be chosen to be the passengers in the car, one to be the driver. They would put on a demonstration of the car accident. Then the students participating would pretend to be dead–that’s right, pretend to be dead. Students were chosen to be the ones killed in the car crash, and weren’t allowed to speak to any of their classmates or friends while they attended school for a week, like a ghost. It was an emotional experience; students would sometimes break into tears, and the atmosphere at school was depressing, to say the least. As my roommate explained this event, I was shocked. But what shocked me the most was what she said afterwards: the next week, she saw her friends leave to drive home from parties drunk.

I was stunned.

Are we really that insensitive and immature that we can desensitize ourselves from something that is so hauntingly realistic? I’m still in disbelief. Not to stray from the subject here, but in life we learn that people can be hypocrites. Whether it’s complaining about someone else’s habits and doing the same thing the next day, or saying something and doing the opposite, it happens. But still…really? The worst part is, she said the people she saw doing it were the ones who were chosen to be in the exercise.

And then there’s MADD. If you haven’t heard of it already, MADD stands for “Mothers Against Drunk Driving”. It is a non-profit organization founded by a group of angry moms to prevent drunk driving and underage drinking. They do some great stuff, and are definitely effective. For example, they were a big factor involved in changing the legal drinking age from 18 to 21. They currently have three campaigns running to help prevent drunk driving. But more about those later.

What I really want to talk about is a huge scandal that erupted due to one of their former members. The former president, to be exact (now it’s interesting). Debra Oberlin, the former president of a chapter located in Gainesville, FL of MADD was arrested on a DUI charge. Ridiculous, right? It gets better. The legal limit is .08, and she blew a .234 and a .239 on breath alcohol tests. Seriously Deb, get a grip. Check out her #winning picture, too.

So kids, what’s the moral of the story? Don’t be stupid. But on a serious note, be a good role model for others. If you are going to support something, REALLY support it. A big part of the reason people do drink and drive is because they see others do it, and trick themselves into thinking “because others do it and are OK, i will be too”. And you might be now. But it only takes once to not be fine.

Be the change you want to see in others.

STOP! In the name of love…

So, you’re reading what I’m writing and, hopefully, it’s getting through a little bit. But now the question is, how do you even begin to protect your friends from doing something like this? If you are like me, you may have said something at the start of college when you came in as a freshman and were shocked by some people’s behavior…but downplayed it. It’s the truth, no one wants to be the only one in the group of new friends who tries to say something is “uncool”. So the question is, how do you protect your friends and not draw some unwanted attention to yourself?

Here are some suggestions to help you:

1. Be proactive. Talk with your friends before they go out. Pick a designated driver, arrange for a sober driver to pick you up, or bring enough money for a cab or public transportation. It would be ideal if this works. If people don’t want to pay for a cab, see if Saferide can drive you within the limits. Everyone is happy when they are sober knowing that they will be able get home when they want. And hey, if you go to Chapman you get 4 free rides in one night, you might as well use them!

2. Politely, but firmly, tell them you cannot let them drive home because you care. If they are a close friend of yours (and not stubborn), they will probably listen. Stay with them, and consider your other options:

3. Drive your friend home. IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN DRINKING. Yes, one drink counts as drinking. If you are pulled over by chance, you will get a DUI if you are under 21. So will they.

4. Have your friend sleep over. If it’s your house, great. If it’s not, judge the arrangements and see if it’s safe. Or, have your friend come back with you, however you’ve arranged to get home. And tell them you will drive them to get their car in the morning.

5. Remind them of the penalities, tell them it’s not worth it. Or, relay a personal experience. They will see you do care. Tell them you’d be happy to call them a taxi or to hang out with them until they find a ride. Heck, tell them you don’t want them to leave yet because you are clearly having so much fun.

5. Take their keys. It’s tough. Try to be calm and not too serious about it, or make it clear you are doing them a favor. Or find the keys while they are distracted so they think they lost them (at least someone else will have to drive them then). If you don’t know the person well, talk to their friends. Say you’re concerned, and see if any of them are sober.

Whatever you do, don’t let them drive. About one-third of persons have been with a friend who may have had too much to drink to drive safely, half of those under age 30. Most of these, 80%, tried to stop the friend from driving and were successful in preventing the impaired person from driving about 75% of the time. The odds are in your favor. If you care about your friend, it’s worth it.