So you think you can drink and drive, huh? Let me tell you about a guy who used to feel that way; I’ll just refer to him as Jack.
About 25 years ago, Jack was a happily married guy with two kids, living in a beautiful home on Long Island. He had a landscaping business in a nearby town and made an excellent living. Every year, he traded in his “old” Cadillac Seville and picked up a new one. Jack was a personable type of guy with many friends and lots of social invitations to enjoy. Yet, he had one flaw in his character; he resented being told that he shouldn’t drive after drinking alcohol. “Everyone is different,” he would say. “Some people get tipsy after one drink and others, like me, have much more capacity for booze.”
Jack felt the laws against drunk driving were too harsh and stifling for people who simply want to have a good time. Besides, he felt so sure of his driving skills that he was certain he could keep any curious patrol car officer from suspecting that he was driving under the influence. “As long as I stay in my lane and don’t drive erratically, they have no reason to stop me,” he was fond of saying. Because he had gotten away with driving drunk so many times, he felt he had mastered the system and was free to do as he pleased. Hence, it was routine for him to have a few drinks at the tavern next door to his office before leaving for the short five-mile drive home. One late-afternoon, his routine became the unraveling of his life.
Jack made it all the way to his tree-lined, immaculate, residential area and was within a hundred feet of his home when a neighbor’s son stepped out from between a couple of parked cars. In an instant, several lives were irreparably damaged. The 10-year-old boy was hit hard enough to propel him through the air for about 30 feet. When he landed, his back was broken, his spine was crushed, his legs were fractured and he needed dozens of stitches in his head. The boy’s parents came running out of the house just as Jack brought his vehicle to a stop. He exited the car in shock and began stumbling toward the severely injured child. The boy’s father, seeing the condition of his unsteady neighbor, grabbed him and threw him to the ground. An ambulance and the police were summoned to the scene. The boy was removed to the hospital and Jack was arrested and taken to the police precinct. It was just the beginning of a nightmare that seemed to have no end.
The only good news to this story is that the boy lived, although crippled for life. Jack didn’t do prison time but he might have preferred a six-by-eight cell for a few years instead of the lifetime of misery that resulted from his irresponsible behavior. His lawyer tried to mitigate his crime by referring to it as an accident. Jack had refused a breathalyzer test, but the police investigation revealed that he had been drinking at the bar prior to the accident, convincing the jury of his culpability. He had no prior record, so he was given a suspended sentence with several years of probation. The lawsuit that followed merely added to his misery. He had to sell his business to pay for legal bills, court costs and penalties. In addition, his family, disgraced by the publicity, was forced to move out of the neighborhood. Before long, they found themselves on public assistance and living in a small apartment.
People who once were considered good friends simply faded away, either in fear of being associated with them, or because they no longer had anything in common. Jack had become a pariah, and his family was forced to suffer along with him. After struggling at several jobs over the next few years, he and his family began to get their lives back. The last I heard of Jack, he had bought a home in another county and slowly got back into the landscaping business. Nevertheless, as bad as his life became, he was, ultimately, able to recover. He never spent a day in jail, but the little boy received a life sentence.
I don’t know how anyone could live with that on his conscience. Sure, it’s easy enough to say accidents happen. But that’s utter nonsense! Drinking and driving is no accident!
If you plan on drinking during this Christmas season and take the risk of driving under the influence, don’t expect any sympathy from the family you hurt, the police officer who stops you or the judge who sentences you, because like Jack, you know the consequences, but you made a decision to ignore them. If we’re lucky, you’ll be arrested before you kill someone.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.