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Drunk driving is a serious issue and is the reason for numerous deaths every year. Add drugs into that equation and you have yourself an even more deadly combination. On the more personal side, drunk driving deaths can change people’s lives forever. A drunk driving related death is so emotionally powerful because it suddenly takes a human’s life off this world through means that are easily preventable. Unfortunately for me and many people close to me, I had to go through this experience.
I’m not going to go to in depth about the dangers of drunk driving because they’re pretty obvious; drunk driving causes death. In 2013, there were a total of 32,719 automobile related deaths in the US1. That same year there were 10,076 drunk driving related deaths2; that means that 30.79%, roughly 1/3, of automobile related deaths also had something to do with drunk driving.
A bigger and less apparent issue related to drunk driving is the mixture of drugs and alcohol and the potential harm that can be done. When you mix alcohol with drugs, it usually exaggerates the effects of both substances. For example, drinking alcohol and taking Adderall by themselves causes behavioral changes and other issues and when mixed, all of these abnormal changes to the body are multiplied. Alcohol is a depressant and Adderall is a stimulant and when mixed, both substances are fighting in the body. Drinking on addy delays the effects of the alcohol and can cause the user to think that they can drink more. This can easily lead to over drinking, alcohol poisoning, and risky behaviors. Alcohol and drug prevention is another big social issue that can be better prevented.
“Drugs and alcohol are bad and I’m never going to do them ever.” (Every little kid ever). While this isn’t an actual quote I got from every kid in the history of the world, it’s generally true now in days. In the past 30 years3 America has been trying to prevent the youth, generally kids grades kingergarden-12, from using drugs and drinking alcohol. While programs like D.A.R.E are usually effective with the younger portion of that group, it’s not nearly as effective with high schoolers. We, as America, use a lot of scare tactics to try and veer kids away from using drugs and alcohol. That might work in the early years of high school like freshmen and sophomore year, but as students start to get older and are exposed to these substances there’s a good chance they will start experimenting with them. This isn’t an unusual thing to happen, it should be expected of kids to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Everyone was their age at one point and went through the same situations. So instead of trying to completely terrify these impressionable teens, I believe a program similar to D.A.R.E. that is centered on how to be smart with drugs and alcohol would be more reasonable with teens. This way we could have peace in mind knowing that if our youth does start to use drugs and alcohol that they know the dangers of them and how to use them safely.
Alongside with the more technical and broad issues relating to drunk driving and the use of drugs and alcohol, there is a more magnified and personal view of these issues. Almost every day, all around the world, we hear about a drunk driving death and as bad as it is, we just think of it as another number in an enormous pool of other drunk driving deaths. It’s not. Some extremely unlucky people get to know why it’s not just another number but an actual person with feelings, friends, family, and a life. I am one of those people.
In my hometown 2 high school seniors died in a drunk driving accident. There were four total people in the car including my friend Ryan Pappas. The driver was drunk, high, and had taken an Adderall while the other two passengers were drunk and Ryan was sober. Around 2 am on September 1st, 2014, a day I will never forget, the driver sped around a corner, lost control, and crashed head-on into a tree. The impact launched the 2 back seat drivers out of the dashboard window killing them almost instantly and the teen in the passenger was launched as well but luckily survived. The driver, being the only one wearing a seatbelt, survived with minimal injuries.
I woke up that morning to my dad sitting my sisters and me down to tell us the news. If you’ve had someone close to you die then you know how this felt but if you don’t I’ll fill you in. Imagine watching a dog die and then multiplying that by 50. It sucks.
My mom was already at the Pappas’s house trying to comfort Susan Pappas on the fact that her son just died. I went later that day to see Ryan’s brother and mama Pappas and all I really remember are tears. Deep sorrow was what I would describe that day and for mama Pappas that sadness never ended. Yes it’s hard for someone to lose a best friend or a brother or someone close but it’s different to lose a son as a mother. A person she gave birth too, raised and watch grow was suddenly taken from her forever and she couldn’t even say goodbye. There were times throughout my senior year that I saw her breakdown and cry. It would mostly be times where she and her family did stuff that they used to do with Ryan or events Ryan couldn’t make because he was gone. The hardest for her was graduation. I remember seeing her with pitch black sunglasses on but I could still see the red, puffy cheeks. When I came up to her and gave her a hug I practically broke her ribs and she did the same to me. You could see the pain illuminating from her and it was something very hard for me to witness.
Besides friends and family being affected by this tragedy, the whole community was too. Although the pain wasn’t as sharp and extreme as it was with those close to the victims, it was still there. Candle lightings, services, and grieving was what unfolded in the town of Monument for weeks to come. A friend of mine even made a sticker that said “Monument strong” to put on cars so the community wouldn’t forget the two souls lost.
While the sticker was a good way to remember, mama Pappas and Brandon wanted to do something bigger. Within months a charity and an event to have an alternative to drinking and smoking was created. The Ryan Pappas memorial fund, the charity, was created for two reasons; one was so Ryan would never be forgotten and the other was to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving. The event they created was originally called “Y night” because it was hosted at the local YMCA but it eventually turned in “The 5th quarter” (this was because the event would later be held after school sporting events).
By and large, Ryan’s death taught me more than to keep those you love close or to never take anything for granted. It taught me about bigger issues and how to watch out for myself and others. I wish it didn’t take his death for me to learn but I now know the true dangers of drunk driving and the effects of mixing alcohol and drugs.
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