drinking and driving

i know my stance on drinking and driving pisses a lot of people off, or at least annoys them.  libby recalled the sliding scale i used to carry around that you would input your gender, weight, and amount of drinks and it would tell your blood alcohol level.  i myself (except for one occasion in 2011 which i will explain later) have never driven drunk.  in fact, for each drink i have, i wait 2 hours before driving, more if i haven’t eaten.  and considering i usually only have 1-2 drinks, well, that is easily a 4 hour wait.

most of my college years, and well after i have been the designated driver (and in europe, the designated walker–sent with a group by weymuth to keep them from being too loud on the way back from the bars so as not to piss off the german locals).

one of my best friends in jr high had her stepdad killed by a drunk driver.  this guy and my friend’s mom were out on the bypass on their bikes training for ragbrai, or the register’s annual great bike ride across iowa.  this guy had been out at the country club drinking all day, then got in his truck.  my friend’s mom, who was also the high school art teacher, turned her head to see where her husband was behind her, and watched the truck plow into him, killing him instantly.  i have seen some people pretty devastated by death, but when my parents sent me over to hang out and talk to tracy the next day, i remember seeing her mom on the couch surrounded by relatives and just sobbing and wailing.  the guy driving of course didn’t get hurt at all, and i don’t remember him going to jail for very long.  and he was apparently speeding, even for the bypass.

the second person i knew who was killed was one of our community librarians.  she was also the mother of the guy i played mixed doubles with at tournaments.  until i could drive, his mom would take us to almost every tournament, and after we got our licenses, she came to watch anyway.  she would have been in her forties when it happened, and i was a sophomore in college, but home for the summer teaching tennis.  she was driving back from des moines and a library conference and was two miles from town.  a drunk truck driver crossed the median and hit her head on.  again, she was killed instantly, and he walked away without a scratch.  for weeks after this, on my commute to and from villisca at night for play practice, i would pull over any time i saw a truck coming the other way.

in college a classmate and good friend of mine, amy sommers was killed the night before student teaching was to begin.  she had decided to drive down (south) to her destination the night before so as to not have to be driving so early in the morning.  a couple of priests who had been driving ran a stop sign at a T intersection between maryville and st. joe, and rammed into her car from the side going about 40 mph.  she was thrown through the windshield and died instantly.  and i believe they again got off pretty easy.  the driver had supposedly only had a couple of glasses of wine and had eaten.

and at maryville high school while i was teaching there, a very talented, smart senior was out drinking with his friends, and on the way home the cops tried to stop him as he was swerving.  he tried to outrun the cops and had a wreck.  now he is wheelchair bound for life, and has lost most of his capacity for speech and higher level thinking.  his parents get to take care of him for the rest of his life.  he was in a coma for a long time, and i’m not sure if it was really a blessing that he lived.

bottom line is, all of these incidents were preventable.  i know it is inconvenient to call a friend, or a cab, or line up a dd, or wait extra time, but it really bothers me when people say, “well, i just had one drink”  or “i ate while i drank”….and chances are most people would be ok driving until they had to react quickly….as in reacting to someone else’s poor driving.  but as far as my friends are concerned, i don’t want to lose any of them to situations that could be prevented, so i continue to state my case and question whether they should drive.

i have always, anywhere i have taught, high school or college, given out my number and requested that students call me if in doubt and i would take them home, no questions asked and no reporting to school officials.  i’ve had quite a few take me up on the offer.

my only time breaking my rule was in new hampshire.  we were in the woods, and had been drinking that night after a performance.  there had probably been 3 hours that passed between the last time i’d drank, but i’d had about 4 drinks.  but a situation arose where someone needed to leave as they had been physically assaulted, and the person was still around, and my cabin was not far.  so against my better judgement i drove us very slowly through the woods about a half a mile at 3 am in the morning.  we got there ok, but i hated the fact that i had broken my vow, as i know there was still alcohol in my system.

looking back, i’d do it again in that situation, being the distance and location and really there was no one else to call as we couldn’t really describe where we were, but, i don’t think this is the scenario where most people make the judgement call.  most of the time, there are other options, and i wish more people would seek them out and take them.


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