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Dont drink and drive, its something weve all heard at one time or another.

However, people are still making that choice, and others are still dying because of it. Ive had my own experiences with this deadly mistake and I want to share those in hopes of helping others prevent these kinds of events in the future. There was this boy. I was a freshman in high school, he was a senior. Our moms were best friends, we went to church together. We fell for each other instantly, but he was too old and I eventually backed down. He never stopped trying, but he did start drinking, bad. Eventually, my new boyfriends and his new habits pushed us apart. He got a street bike and I started to worry. It was a Wednesday night and I had the gut feeling. You know the one. Something bad is going to happen. I didnt just think it, I told my parents that I just knew I would be getting a call one day soon, and that Kasey was going to be dead or arrested for DUI. May 20, 2011 was said to be the end of the world. Whats funny is for me, my family, and our close friends it almost was. Kasey left an Applebees after he had been bar hopping and drinking all night. He doesnt remember making the decision, but he did. He got on his bike to ride the few miles to his house. He was going 80 miles per hour in a 45 when the Escalade pulled out in front of him. Kasey never braked; just hit the back of the SUV. Hes six foot two but somehow by the grace of God, Kasey went directly through the back glass and landed in the middle row of seats. The boy driving lost control of the car and totaled it in a ditch. No helmet, no sense, just fear. The driver of the Escalade got out and started running. Kasey wasnt sure if he was fleeing or finding help so he got out of the car in a fog and just started walking. He went the two miles to his house, woke up his mom and she called 911. No broken bones, no brain injuries, just stitches. He almost lost his leg from the gash left by the back glass breaking, but we got lucky. They called me right after, we got dressed and it seemed like hours to the hospital. Hes okay, but what did he do? All I could think was hes going to jail; hes going to lose his job, his license. The officer on duty was astonished. He had never seen someone make it through something like this unharmed, no one had. He stuck his neck out for Kasey, gave him a second chance. There was never a blood test for alcohol, the only charge was leaving the scene, and it didnt take long to take care of that. I almost lost the everything that I didnt even have. We came back together that night, and have been together ever since. Hes turned it around, but we were the lucky ones. Unfortunately this happy ending is incredibly rare. Six boys from our hometown alone have been in identical accidents since then, only they were wearing helmets. And theyre gone. October 8, 2011. Zack, a boy from my classes, from the same group of friends. He is a genius on every topic, but is also humble, funny, and handsome. He has three sisters and two parents who adore him. Its five-o-clock in the morning. He leaves a party, goes through a fence, through a pole, into a tree; killed instantly.

Unfortunately Zach is representative of what generally happens to people who drink and drive. His mom was angry. She missed her son, wanted to grieve for him, but had to fight through anger. How could he leave her? How could he do this to his sisters and friends? I know the feeling, as happy as I was Kasey would be okay, I wanted to ask him how he could be so stupid. I want to spread awareness on the realities of drinking and driving. Its way too easy to hear a statistic and leave it alone, but each person who falls at the hands of this epidemic is someones friend, lover, partner, sibling, parent, child. These are real people with real lives, dreams, plans. They have favorite colors, posters on their walls, nicknames given to them by the people they love. Drinking and driving is an epidemic. While it is slowly declining, the numbers are still astonishing and very real. According to the 2009 FBI crime report, there were 53,000 arrests for driving under the influence, and 770 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in Florida alone. In 2010 nationwide, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-related crashes, or 1 in every 50 minutes. While this may not seem like a huge number, for that persons friends and family, the difference 50 minutes can make is catastrophic. In people ages 15 to 20, one in three deaths are cause by motor vehicle accidents, and one-third of those are a caused by drinking and driving. It is clear that our age group is greatly affected by the effects of alcohol mixed with driving. According to a study at the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University Of Maryland School Of Public Health, 20% of college students admitted to drunk driving, and 40% admitted to riding in the car with a drunk driver. The scary thing is, those students were asked about driving DRUNK. Half of the students admitted to drinking and driving, which means they had alcohol in their systems, but were not at a .08 Blood Alcohol Level. This is the reasoning many give for driving after drinking, that they are within the law as long as they take it slow. Even at a BAC level of only .02, there is a decline in visual functions, and in the ability to do two things at one time, both of which are crucial to safe driving. Thats only one drink. Now a major question, we know how bad the problem is, but where can we pin the blame? Some would say its those serving the alcohol. In Washington, a local Captain Jacks bar and grill is being sued by the family of a youth pastor who was killed in an accident where the other driver was well over the legal limit. The drunk driver left the grill just moments before the accident. The lawsuit stated the defendants failed to properly instruct, educate and supervise their employees to avoid selling alcoholic beverages to obviously intoxicated patrons. Bars arent the only ones providing alcohol to drivers. The Social Host Liability law has been enacted into legislature in 32 states. This Law holds homeowners and hosts of parties responsible for alcohol related accidents that occur after people leave those parties and drive home drunk. While the law holds other parties somewhat liable for alcohol-related accident fatalities and injuries, the driver is held most responsible. It is the individuals responsibility to have a plan, maybe even a few plans, prior to going out. According to the Florida DMVs website, even a first time DUI offender can be punished with fines, community service, probation, and jail time. If there is a fatality involved, the driver will be charged with DUI Manslaughter, put in jail for up to 15 years, and fined up to 10,000 dollars. This amount of money doesnt even include the lawsuits in civil court filed by the families of the victims. If a person is convicted of either of these offences, the conviction will stay on their driving record for 75 years.

There are cures for this epidemic, ones that are in reach. One option is a program called DADDS, or the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety. This is being funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and is believed to be the cure for drunk driving. If approved, this technology will be installed in every new car by as early as 2020. Handles and steering wheels will be able to detect BAC levels at a touch, and cars will not operate if the drivers level is at or above a .08. Research for this kind of technology is expensive; 10 million dollars was given for the project. It is also unclear what the cost effects would be on buying a new car with the DADDS installations. A more short-term and cost effective way to prevent DUIs and alcohol-related accidents is by having a Designated Driver. This could be a friend or family member that is told ahead of time what is being asked of them. It is crucial to plan ahead because once a person is drunk, their judgment is off and they will be convinced they can drive. Having a DD before the person leaves the house can mean the difference between life and death, and is a free alternative to driving under the influence. One more way to prevent drinking and driving is specific to the UCF campus. In spring of 2011, the KnightLynx bus system was created to keep students from feeling they need to drink and drive. It runs from 8 pm to 3 am on Friday and Saturday nights and is free to all UCF students; all you need is your ID and somewhere to go. This transportation system costs roughly 10,000 to students each year, but in my opinion that is well worth the lives this could potentially save. There are costs for the solutions, but there are also costs for the problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crashes cost more than $37 billion per year. There are other monetary factors, including lawyer fees, court costs, and fines. Besides these, lives are at stake. People are being killed and injured every day due to drunk driving. In conclusion, this is not a lecture. I dont want to make you feel bad, but I do want to see a change. Im sure everyone knows driving under the influence is bad, yet were still seeing people going to jail and getting hurt because of it. I am tired of seeing people die because of stupid decisions with preventable consequences. I dont want to see any of my friends, family members, or fellow students killed, hurt, or arrested because of drinking and driving, and I hope each of you takes on the same responsibility.

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