Last year my precious niece was killed in (what we thought at the time was) a simple car accident. We thought the other driver just didn’t see Abby as she legally passed a school bus on her way to work one Friday afternoon. He pulled out and hit her in just the
right wrong place and that was it. She was gone; pronounced dead at the scene.
A few days after the accident we found out the driver had a history of DUIs and, at the time of the accident, a restricted license. We waited to find out what his blood-alcohol level was and I just learned today that the driver was drunk. Really drunk. More than twice the legal limit drunk and more than four times the limit of his restriction drunk. In the midst of angry tears and immense heartache all I can say is, “That bastard!”
This man had a history of drinking and driving that stretches back to the 1980s and I am left to wonder why. Why wasn’t he stopped? Why aren’t all the drunk drivers stopped, for that matter? I know we live in an imperfect world and bad things happen, but perhaps you will forgive me for asking why…or, rather, who. Who in his life knew he was a drunk and likely to drive? Who in his life, after the second or third DUI, failed to sit him down, look at him square in the eyes and tell him he was a selfish SOB and he needed to stop putting others at risk? Who in his life didn’t take the keys away or fight tooth and nail to keep him off the road? To keep him from killing our Abby?
Who, dammit!? I want names.
I want to look them in the eye and ask them if they did everything they could that day? Or did they think if he drove again after filling himself up with drink after drink that it would be like the other times and no one would get hurt. Well, someone did get hurt! A lot of people are hurt! Abby is dead and her mom and dad hurt. Her sister hurts. Her cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends hurt. We miss her terribly because he killed her! And I want to know who let this happen!
All of us who loved Abby gathered last October to mourn her and it occurred to me that this was the time in her life when we should have been gathering to celebrate her wedding or some other momentous occasion. Instead we gathered to grieve her and comfort her parents and sister. Why? Because this man needed to drink and drive? That’s our answer?
No more Christmas’s.
No more vacations.
No more random texts or quick phone calls just to say hi.
No more Abby.
Why? Because this man needed to drink and drive? Humpf…what-the-eff-ever. That answer is not good enough.
For all of us who are left, we get a lifetime of bittersweet moments – marriages and babies, graduations and birthdays – all without Abby courtesy of this drunk driver. We join the millions of other family members who had loved ones stolen from them because some other SOB had to drink and drive. Today there is – pardon the pun – a sobering reality. The reality that our actions – and for some, their inaction – impact others.
If you are someone who drinks too much and then gets behind the wheel, I want you to look at a picture of my niece, Abby. Look at her. She was just 21 and driving to work in the middle of the afternoon when she was killed. She was a daughter, a sister, a niece, a girlfriend, and a friend.
was is loved.
We miss her. So very much.
What is the name of the person you might kill? Are you so arrogant that you think you won’t? I’m sure the bastard who killed my niece thought he was just going out for a quick afternoon errand. No worries at all about his .18 blood-alcohol level he had. He was just running up the street when – BAM! – he slammed into Abby and killed her.
Just. Like. That.
So think about it. Who might you kill? And what family might you condemn to a lifetime of moments constantly interrupted by the harsh realization that part of you is missing? Where you can never again be truly happy because everything is tainted by her absence. That is our (and millions of others’) reality.
Think about it, dammit! Then give the keys to someone else!
If you are someone who knows a friend or loved one who drinks and drives, I believe you have a moral responsibility to do what you can to keep them off the road. If they refuse to listen to you and still get behind the wheel, tackle them down if you have to, just keep them from driving! If they still fight you off, call the police!
That. Very. Moment.
Tell them an intoxicated person is driving. Give them a description of the vehicle and driver. Tell them as if your life depends on it. Or your child’s. Because someday it just might. You may not realize it, but you do have a responsibility. We all do. The person drinking has one, too, of course, but we have to take care of one another. If someone is behaving in a way that is destructive to others, we have to act. It is not okay to ignore it. It’s not okay to pretend it isn’t happening or to laugh it off. It is serious.