Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Drinking & Driving Mentality

There is no excuse for driving drunk. Let's get this in our heads.

Yesterday was a tough day for friends & family of the Van De Vorst family that was killed in a care accident back in early January. The drunk driver that ran into them was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The family's closest loved ones appeared in court, reading victim impact statement after statement, hoping to send the message of the magnitude of this incident on their lives.

The days following the accident I didn't think much of the accused. Many people were angry at her, the city, the law...we were all dealing in our own ways. A friend, not directly connected to the family asked me "Doesn't this make you so mad???" At first I was angry, not at her, but at all the people that choose to drink & drive, at the selfishness & the disregard for the people they could hurt. This anger subsided & I vowed to focus my energy on the legacy left behind by this beautiful family that I miss so dearly.

The days leading up to the court date & yesterday, many of these feeling of frustration & anger have resurfaced.  I woke up yesterday distracted - and not unlike the days following the accident, I was consumed by social media. I followed the news reporters live tweets of the court session, consumed by the details, by how others close to this family were affected, how the accused reacted, the outcome of the ruling. The public's reactions. I felt sad for the family, how hard it must have been to relive the day they lost their children, sister, brother, neice, nephew, cousins...and can only hope that it was not for nothing.

There has been a lot of finger-pointing since this incident, people want to blame one person for this tragedy. I'm convinced the Catherine McKay knows the brutality of the mistake she has made & has taken full responsibility for this. I'm not saying what she did was ok, but I do think it is time stop pointing fingers at her & look at the bigger picture - as McKay has vowed to do - to take a stand & change this mentality that is taking innocent lives. This is not one person's problem. It is a provinces problem. A nation's. A society's problem. But I am at a loss how to change the mentality of such a large population so stuck in their ways.

Saskatchewan has a ridiculous rate, 3 times the national average, for drunk drivers. People are full of small-town excuses, we've all heard them: 'It won't happen to me,' 'I don't have a way to get home,' 'Everyone does it,' 'People's judgements are blurred when they have a few.' But there is no justified excuse for getting behind the wheel intoxicated. For risking your life. For risking the lives of others.

Today I woke up feeling a loss of faith in humanity. Part of me has given up on the idea that people will change their ways, the idea of an end to drinking & driving. I've never understood the mentality of it. A little piece of me hangs on to the hope that people can & will change. Although it is unfortunate that it takes a tragedy of this magnitude to change people's ways, I like to think it is enough to spare at least one life (or four) and hopefully more. But how to change the rest of the habitual drunk drivers? Even the occasional ones....or that person that does it for the first time. Is it up to us - those impacted enough by the losses caused by these terrible mistakes - to influence the people around us? Is it enough?

To me it is simple. It is a shift in perspective. If you preach don't drink & drive, they will not change their ways. Because as soon as they start to drink, they will make stupid decisions. But think of it this way: if you are going to drive, don't drink.

I just wish it was this simple for everyone else.

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