Saturday, November 22, 2008

Death Sentence for Two, Make That Three

Killed in the wreck were Damien, 14, and Angela, 13.

So you just enjoyed a great time with your family at the NBA game. You're driving home, and sure you "had a few" at the game, but you're fine to drive. A few miles up the road you realize that you were wrong. You pull over, after all the kids are in the car, to let your wife drive. Or was it to urinate like the police reports say? Either way, you stop your car on the interstate. No you didn't turn on your hazard lights, but you're clear over on the dirt shoulder, partly anyway.

You get out of the car and watch an SUV plow into the rear end of you family sedan without ever slowing down.

What do you do? How do you react?

Frantic 911 calls from the scene report that the driver of the sedan, the step-father, looks into the car to see his children are dead. The SUV is on top of where the trunk used to be and it has encroached into the rear seat killing the teens. Upon seeing his dead children, the step-father reportedly approaches the SUV and beats the driver into a coma. Multiple witnesses say that the second driver never left his vehicle and was struck 50 - 150+ times by the dad, while seat-belted behind the wheel.

The second driver never regained consciousness and died from his injuries.

Both drivers were found to be over their state's legal limit for DUI. Both families grieve the loss of loved ones. Dad is going to prison. Mom and the family of the other driver are paying the high cost of this tragic incident.

I don't use the word accident when it comes to crashes where one or more parties are intoxicated because it is a choice. It is no accident when a person consumes alcohol and gets behind the wheel of a vehicle, it's a decision that we all know could result in death.

How many of these stories will I have to see play out in my lifetime? How many people I know will be affected by DUI/DWAI? How many more lives will I have to see devastated by their own or another's reckless disregard for personal and public safety?

The reason I write this blog is to let everyone know that it CAN happen to you. It CAN happen to someone you know or someone you love. But we CAN ALL change our personal behaviours to keep our roads safer. Call a cab, ride the bus, call a friend or don't drink if you have to drive. You can save a life with the choices you make.

Remember these three the next time you are faced with a decision about whether you really should be behind the wheel. Vigilante justice happens, don't put yourself at risk. Consider what the second driver would have had to live with had he survived.

Please keep yourselves happy, healthy and safe.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

DUI death sentence

Where I live, recently there was a news story about a young lady who was in a single vehicle motor vehicle crash. She was seen at a hospital and cleared for booking in the jail for suspicion of DUI. Her blood alcohol levels were approximately 1.5 time the legal limit. She died 20 hours later in the jail. Autopsy results showed a lacerated spleen and liver that were missed in the ER. The hospital was ordered to pay her family $4million for neglicence. Recently our city council settled with her family for $3million.

That's $7million to the family of a drunk driver.

I'm torn.

I would never wish for any parent to suffer the loss of their child, much less due to negligence on the part of those who are supposed to "Serve and Protect" or health care professionals, but how many families are out there right now mourning a loved one who was killed by a drunk driver?

How are those families compensated for their loss due to the negligence of a person just like this young lady. A person who knowingly and willingly consumed a mind altering substance, CHOSE to get behind the wheel of a car and took the life of an innocent person. Maybe one day I'll share with you the story of one of these families, I have one in mind. Another bright and beautiful young lady whose family was compensated $15,000 for their loss.

I've seen first hand the result of crashes caused by DUI/DWAI. I have spoken to families on the "front lines" just learning that their loved one is injured or dead. I have been the first one on the scene when they have passed out at the wheel, flipped their vehicle and were ejected hundreds of feet across a highway. I have had to crawl through the window of a car that is upside down in an effort to reach my patient and have to stay with them keeping them protected while my partners used extrication tools to cut the car away from them. I have had to cut open a car so that I could recover the remains of accident victims for my county coroner.

I share these stories because I want us all to be more aware. I want everyone to think about how we'll get home if we choose to go enjoy an adult beverage. There are so many options. Designate a driver, use the bus, call a cab, limit your drinks to no more than 1 an hour and have a back-up plan. I try to be that back-up plan for everyone I know. I have an "anytime" policy for everyone I love. They can call me anytime to come get them home safe so that they will never be one of my stories.