You hear everyone say it.
“I’ve only had one drink.”
“I am fine to drive, do not worry.”
“It will never happen to me.”
The horrifying truth, sharply contrasting these common phrases, is this: it can happen, especially if one fails to take the appropriate measures. It all starts the minute a driver decides to grab his keys, open the car door, and put the key in the ignition, ready (or unready) to make a potentially life-changing choice that will affect an innumerable amount of people. Should I drive in an intoxicated condition?
In a given week, 16 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes are drunk. On weekends, that percentage rises by 13 percent. 28.7 million people admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol. That is more than the population of Texas alone. These numbers are not only striking, but they also do not lie. It is a crying shame that when a viewer turns on a news network on their television, “oh, not another one” is said in response. The numbers continue to rise. One of the most effective strategies in reducing the number of people who drive under the influence is through spreading awareness of its dangers and detrimental effects- one driver at a time.
A shining light has illuminated this nationwide issue just recently, after a tragic event that sped through the TCNJ community. In the aftermath of a car crash on Pennington Road, six students were left in critical condition, one of which was taken from us too soon. 20-year-old Michael Sot, a mathematics major, passed away due to his fatal wounds after experiencing intense injuries caused by the incident. He was the designated driver.
You can be the absolute best driver. You can be overly cautious and mindful that your foot is pressing the gas pedal at a safe discretion below the speed limit. You can be vigilant as to keeping a safe distance away from the vehicle in front of yours. What you can never prepare for, however, is the dangerous decision on someone else’s end in getting behind the wheel while drunk, slightly under the influence, or even having a few sips of alcohol in their system.
Especially as a college student, it is a commonality to believe that we are all invincible. We are the generation that can go out into the world and conquer anything that comes our way. On the same token, what we must remember is that we as college students have to weigh our limits. After the TCNJ tragedy, I cannot even count how many messages have circulated around campus with the same core statement: “if anyone ever needs a ride, please do not hesitate to contact me.” As not only a campus community but also as a nationwide effort, we must enforce these options before any event where alcohol or another driving distraction is being offered. There certainly has been a strong sense of community at TCNJ since the vehicle crash- stronger than it already was- and this central hub of societal belonging is the first step in preventing a future drunk driving fatality from occurring. President of The College of New Jersey, Dr. Kathryn A. Foster gut-wrenchingly stated, “This news is heartbreaking. Michael was an outstanding student, and a trusted and caring friend with a bright future ahead of him. The TCNJ community is keeping his family, friends, and loved ones in its thoughts during this tremendously difficult time.” Counseling and support services are being offered campus-wide in hopes of fostering messages of support and hope- specifically, hope that an event like this will be prevented by means of educating TCNJ’s constituents.
It takes a split second to make a decision that has the potential to shatter the hearts of many. No assumption about your personal state- even being “slightly buzzed”- is worth making an enormous risk. The consequences are far too monumental and the emotional despair is far too entrenching. Start your engine only when you know there is definitely a green light of ability, not a yellow light of uncertainty.