by Renee Martin
On November 13th, North Eugene had an assembly called Every 15 Minutes to warn the students here of the consequences of drunk driving. Outside in the old tennis courts by the student parking lot there were cop cars, a helicopter, the Grim Reaper, and a big mock crash. Juniors and seniors watched as a selected few participated in filming the video of a fake drunk driving crash. The makeup car crash wounds were very gruesome and very realistic. The assembly had speakers and tragic slideshows of people that were killed because of a drunk driver. There was a lot of theatrics that went into making the crash and the video, having the Grim Reaper come and take students away, and having the sheriff department and Life Flight come and participate in the event.
Why did so much work go into making the point that drunk driving is not good?
Every day almost 30 people in the U.S. die in a drunk driving accident. Drunk driving accidents make up over 30 % of motor vehicle crashes. In the U.S., the penalty for driving while under the influence of alcohol can result in a 90 day suspension of your drivers license, fees of up to $1,000, and 48 hours in jail. These laws seem harsh for something as trivial as driving under the influence. At least, that’s the opinion of many people in the United States.
Comparing the U.S. with Russia, who are infamously known for their love of vodka, if you are caught driving while intoxicated your drivers license is permanently revoked for life. Russia didn’t have these serious laws a couple of years ago, Russia was pressured to make these laws because of an incident involving 5 orphaned teenagers being plowed down by a car whose driver was drunk. The Prime Minister and lawmakers have been influenced to make even harsher laws for drunk driving. In Russia if you kill two or more people in a drunk driving crash you will be sentenced 9 years in prison. Russia saw the drunk driving epidemic in their country and have tried to fix it.
Doesn’t the U.S. today have this same epidemic?
The drinking age in Ireland, South Africa, and Russia is 18 years old and here it’s 21. Doesn’t the higher drinking age in the U.S. make teens start to think that 21 is this magical age where you can do whatever you want? You can drink at 21, and that means you’ll have more friends and be a beautiful model in a bikini or a guy with ripped abs partying on the sunny beach with beer in hand. Commercials burn into our minds that drinking is fun, beer tastes so good when it’s ice cold. They say that you can’t have a party without a beer, drinking beer is the only way to socialize, there’s no other way to socialize. It’s okay to binge drink, get hammered, and forget everything you did last night.
Maybe you even murdered someone because you got in the drivers seat and drove yourself to the next bar.
In Lane County we have an oddly higher percentage of drunk driving accidents than other counties in Oregon. Why is this? Retired Sergeant Kevin Woodworth said, “Lane County has been one of the top counties for crashes for years. I think the main reason is that we are one of the largest counties (4700 Square miles), with the largest population, and the most rural roads. In addition, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office is, and has been one of the lowest staffed police agencies in the State since the late ‘70s, all due to the loss of timber revenue. An average shift coverage is one sergeant and two deputies. You can see that does not leave much for traffic enforcement, which does save lives.”
Although traffic enforcement may be at a lower percentage than other counties, isn’t it our responsibility to have common sense not to get behind a wheel when intoxicated?
Many adults want teenagers a few words of advice. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t be a statistic.