When my husband turned into our neighborhood at twilight on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I was relieved that we had escaped the threat of holiday weekend drunk driving. Within minutes, I discovered that my consideration was premature.

On a stretch of road five feet from my driveway, where each morning I go running with my two-year-old daughter, a drunk driver left me fearing for my life.

Our neighbors were hosting another Bud Light bacchanal. Just as my husband pulled past a long line of partygoers’ cars and began backing his open trailer into our driveway, a silver Silverado careened backward out of the neighbors’ driveway. In several fast and jerky motions, the truck straightened out, and then bulleted toward our cab. The woman at the wheel, whose face registered an eerie lack of sanity, pumped the brakes, missing our truck by mere feet. After hastily reversing, she jolted toward us once more. Again, she slammed the brakes just before hitting our cab.

At some time between the first and second onslaught, feeling helpless and enraged in the back bench seat beside my daughter, I began to scream the kinds of words that were once unfit for television. I took off my seat belt in a frantic attempt to remove myself and my daughter from the vehicle. When I calculated that the truck’s interior was safer than the street, I reapplied the belt, but continued to bellow at the woman coming at us once again.

During her third pursuit, the woman ended her near-miss with a quick leftward jerking of her steering wheel, which sent her truck on a three-foot drop down the steep grassy ditch that lined the lush green yard of our neighbor across the street. Her Silverado bottomed out before bouncing aggressively across the lawn, leaving deep gashes of tire tracks and muddy bald spots in its wake. Back on the street, the driver made a beeline for the main road, where her aggressive behavior would put an untold number of unsuspecting people in danger.

It took three or more panicked, adrenaline-racked attempts to unlock my phone and dial 911. By the time my husband pulled into our driveway, I had finished relaying the events to the dispatcher. To our right, the silver truck was rocketing down the street and veering back into the neighbor’s driveway. The driver’s visibility had been cut off by the side airbag, which had exploded on impact with the ditch.

After quickly calling 911 to alert the dispatcher to the new developments, I went about the lengthy task of calming my terrified daughter to prepare her to go to sleep. By the time I re-emerged outside, three police vehicles blocked the neighbors’ driveway. For the next 40 minutes, the driver’s screams for the police officers on the scene to take her to jail punctuated the calm in our quiet subdivision of retirees and young families. Because the driver refused to admit that she had been behind the wheel when using her truck as a three-ton battering ram, she was charged with disorderly conduct, and was lodged overnight in a jail cell to sober up.

My family was lucky. We did not become three of the more than 10,000 drunk driving casualties the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration counts each year. But my husband and I did receive a sentence of our own: an exponentially heightened awareness. For that, I am grateful.

I have parsed through the events of that Sunday night ad nauseum in an attempt to comprehend what, if any, policies or personal interventions might have deterred a 52-year-old woman with a history of alcohol problems, who threatened my family in front of our own home, from getting behind the wheel. For all my questions, I still have no clear answers.

June 2018 Reuters Health article highlighted a Boston University School of Medicine research study, which determined that restrictive alcohol policies, such as drunk driving checkpoints, limits on alcohol sales, alcohol taxes, and enforcing blood-alcohol limitations for drivers were associated with a reduction in alcohol-related crash fatalities.

Reduction, however, is not elimination.

According to research compiled by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, ignition interlocks (which force a driver to blow into a device that registers their blood alcohol levels before the ignition can be engaged) have proven to reduce recidivism, are more effective than suspension of a driving license, and have led to measurable decreases in drunk driving deaths. All 50 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, have laws on the books regarding the installation of ignition interlocks for those with a history of drunk driving. Twenty-eight states require any convicted drunk driving offenders to install ignition interlocks on their vehicles.

Unfortunately, though ignition interlocks may prevent some repeat offenses, first-time drunk drivers can kill innocents and themselves just as easily as drivers who have previously offended.

In January, Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., introduced the Abbas Stop Drunk Driving Act, which requires the Department of Transportation to ensure all new vehicles and trucks possess an ignition interlock device. While this sweeping legislation could save many lives, the results are both invasive and costly to drinkers and non-drinkers alike. According to ignition interlock device manufacturer Guardian Interlock, monthly maintenance and calibration fees for an interlock device range from $60 - $80. Furthermore, if the drivers of older vehicles remain unimpeded by interlock devices, drunk drivers will continue to make their way onto the roads.

Deterring drunk driving through policymaking is an admirable goal, but policy alone cannot keep all impaired Americans from making the dangerous choice to drive while intoxicated. For now, the only recourse for sober drivers is to remain vigilant whenever they are on the road. The passage of stricter legislation, the time of day, or even our proximity to home should never lull us into the perception that we are safe from the ubiquitous danger of drunk driving.

Source: Washington Examiner


Last updated on: 2019-10-17 | Link to this post