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deaddrinkI am surprised in this day and age there are still those that make light of and condone drunk driving. There has been an ongoing debate on Twitter recently about a popular Twitter account holder who was arrested for alleged drunk driving.

What started this intense debate was the fact that someone actually started a donation drive to get the bail necessary to release this person from jail so that he could be home with his family. At first glance, this would seem to have been a nice gesture by loyal friends.

That is, until you hear the REST of the story.

It turns out that this is at least the FOURTH time he had been CAUGHT driving drunk, according to public records. There is also the fact that this person led law enforcement on a wild chase through the town striking parked cars and damaging private property before finally getting apprehended.

Fortunately, nobody was killed due to this little stunt on his part.

To understand my strong stance when it comes to drunk driving, we must travel back in time to the forth of July weekend in the early 1980’s. I was on my way to Miami, Florida driving a 38 ton tractor trailer. I was scheduled to deliver a load of food products to the warehouse of a large grocery chain at 7:00 that morning.

I had pulled over just after 5:00 am that morning at the Hollywood, Florida exit ramp To take care of a minor mechanical problem with the truck. I had resolved the problem and was about ready to resume driving when I felt a minor jolt.

I happened to glance at my driver side rear view mirror in time to see pieces of glass strike it. I exited the truck and walked back to the rear of the trailer to see what was wrong. I noticed that a large blue car had struck the trailer with such force that it had broken the rear tandem axles loose and spun them around 180 degrees.

As I approached the car, a feeling of dread went through me when I saw the young man who had been driving the car. He appeared to be asleep. I asked him if he was all right. There was no answer.

I reached out to take his pulse by touching his jugular vain and his head slumped over. He was clearly dead.

The car was a late 70’s Cadillac Coupe Deville. It was a hard top and NOT a convertible. When the car struck the trailer, it did so with such force that it went under it, peeling back the windshield and the hard top as far back as the trunk. The car had then bounced back off of the trailer and only stopped where it did when the 24 ton trailer collapsed on top of the hood.

I later learned that the Florida Highway Patrol estimated he was going over 100 miles per hour when he struck the back of my trailer. There were no skid marks. That indicated he never tried to stop or in any way avoid the truck.

While I was talking to a sheriff deputy who happened to witness the accident. A group of people pulled up in the median from the North bound lane of I-95. They turned out to be close friends of his who had lost track of him in their rear view mirror and had turned around to see where he was.

It took quite a while for the group to calm down from the emotional reaction to finding out their friend was dead. When they did, they informed the deputy that they had been at a graduation party. They were celebrating graduating from college at a party 5 miles north of where the accident happened. They were leading their friend to their apartment where he was going to stay since he was too impaired to drive the additional 25 miles to his home.

None of them had thought to either give him a ride in their car or someone else drive his car. It turns out the latter was out of the question since every one of the group were drunk as well, just not as severely as their now dead friend.

In the weeks that followed the accident I learned that the medical examiner had found that his blood alcohol level was over three times Florida’s legal limit at that time. The medical examiner went on to say that he likely had passed out and never knew he was about to die. He also said that his neck was completely broken at the base of his neck. He said the only thing holding his head upright before I touched him was his skin. That is why he slumped over when I went to feel his pulse.

The man was 25. He left a young wife and child who no longer had a father.

In the over 40 years and 4 million miles I have driven as a professional truck driver, this is the only fatal accident I was involved in.  Through those many years I have witnessed several accidents involving drunk drivers.

Each and every time I would remember this accident and how I felt for a long time afterword.

Until you are personally involved in the death of someone, even if it was not your fault, you have no idea what someone goes through.

When I see someone enabling a drunk rather than trying to rehabilitate them, I am reminded of that day when it look less than five miles driving from a graduation party to end the life of a young man simply because he had too much to drink.

Stay tuned

MURT