Tuesday, November 18, 2008
PLEASE DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE
This phrase sums up our approach to the problem of drunk driving: a plea to the common decency and good sense of intoxicated people who would get behind the wheel. I am here to tell you they don't have any, and this approach is pathetically inadequate.
In the months that have elapsed since my daughter Rachel was killed, I have thought long and hard about what it is going to take to keep people from choosing to drive when they are drunk, and prevention is the only satisfactory solution. Our nation is indifferent to the consequences of drunk driving, because most of us are unaffected and believe we are immune. Of course we read stories in the paper everyday, and we think, "What a shame!" When Rachel was killed, the story barely registered in the local newspaper. Because it is such a common occurrence, the story of the life of an innocent, promising, beautiful young lady being senselessly and violently cut short by a drunk driver isn't deemed newsworthy. We don't demand the change required to put an end to the body count. We will not tolerate our freedoms being abridged, until, of course, we are convinced the security of our own live or our loved ones is imperiled. That, of course, is the lesson of the aftermath of 9/11.
Prevention is expensive. And the fact is, people only spend money on what they care about. We can't afford to help the poor AIDS orphans in Africa, but somehow we find the money to pay for our plasma t.v.'s; universal health care is prohibitively expensive, but we can spend trillions of dollars on a pointless war in Iraq and on a bail-out for Wall Street without any debate or public discourse. The public has no idea of the real cost of drunk driving - a price we are already paying. Of course the personal costs are inestimable and catastrophic. But when medical, judicial, penal, social wellfare and productivity costs are tallied the price tag of drunk driving is astronomical. M.A.D.D. reports that in the year 2000 alone, the public paid an estimated 114 billion dollars in costs associated with drunk driving. If we have that kind of money to spend cleaning up the devastation caused by D.U.I., why can't we spend it on the front end and use it to prevent the tragedy in the first place? We would still be out the money, but we just might have our own lives or the lives of our loved ones to show for the investment.
The real problem is indifference. But I can tell you this now as a father who has lost his only and precious daughter to this senseless crime: I would pay any price to have prevented her death; I would sacrifice any "freedom". And you would, too, if you truly believed your life and the lives of your loved ones were imperiled. Unless we do something now to change our approach from and impotent plea to the common decency and good sense of intoxicated drivers to real prevention, we may very well be reading about you or your loved ones next. That is, if the story makes the paper.