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Drunk drivers are just accidental murderers; they don’t want to kill people they just do things that they know will cause fatal injuries to themselves but more often others. Even if it’s an unintentional killing or if they don’t kill anyone they will change that person’s life forever.
As a member of a family and religion that abstains from drinking, it seemed that my life could never be affected by drunk driving since I didn’t drink and I didn’t know anyone who did. Or that was what I assured myself, as I listened to the cautionary lectures in health class, teachers pleading with me and my adolescent peers to avoid alcohol and its evils, the message was obviously lost on us because the class was bored but rose in excitement at the end of the presentation clamoring for a chance to use the “drunk goggles”, giggling, completely oblivious of the painful reality that we were warned of.
These offenders no matter their age are perpetual teenagers; stuck in that selfish, egocentric mindset and they can’t comprehend what damage they can do by piloting a thousand pound hunk of metal through an unsuspecting public.
Even afterwards they refuse to acknowledge the terrible ramifications of their actions. I have seen an acquaintance absolutely dumfounded by how serious the police took his driving home from the bar a little tipsy. The nerve! The police officers couldn’t understand how inconvenient this was for him, the legal fees and the steep fines! They didn’t understand that he was a great driver and they were ruining his fun.
I think those officers understood perfectly. They were probably like my father, a police officer of twenty odd years, had to document accident after gruesome, preventable accident. They probably had to cancel that call for an ambulance and ask the dispatcher to send the coroner instead.
These drunk drivers find it so hard to comprehend the infinite damage caused by driving under the influence. Everyone that loves the victim is affected, everything that person could have done, made, or even become is destroyed or warped. You could go as far as saying in killing one person you have killed thousands, all the children and their ensuing progeny have ceased to exist in that one moment of thinking only of a good time and driving home drunk. Thinking that driving drunk would never hurt anyone is a mistake, a mistake that one boy made on my birthday.
My family was driving home from Virginia, having celebrated my brother’s graduation from the Marine Corps. Officer Candidate School. We drove through the night, almost home. Mom was playing music softly in the front to keep her awake at 2am while everyone was trying to get some sleep at 2 am, dad was slumped in the front seat resting up before his shift later that morning.
Shannon and Kirsten sat in the second row slumped sideways sighing softly as we rolled along. In the back seat Effie’s head rested against the glass of the window, hardly recognizable with a blanket wrapped around her like a cloak. Emily laid her head on Effie’s shoulder, I dosed in and out of a fretful sleep watching my sisters and my parents, looking out the window at the dark, quiet, Texas highways.
I was anxious to get home and sleep after twenty hours of driving; we all were anticipating the end of our vacation and this drive returning to our everyday routine. We were almost home, the GPS signaling only twenty miles left, I felt renewed hope that I would get enough sleep to enjoy my birthday. We reduced our speed as we entered a town and as we drove past a bank, a large red truck ran a stop sign and our van collided with it causing a terrible shrieking crunch as we ricocheted off, it was like waking up into a nightmare, the smell was terrible all burnt rubber, oil and metal.
Our van shot off the road into some bushes jolting everyone in the car, shaking us brutally, then slamming us full force into a sturdy brick sign. The screaming had started right away, first caused by sheer terror but then by pain. Hearing my father scream added to the terror, he had always been imperturbable, a marine, stoic never showing fear of pain, hearing him scream cemented the dread. He had been thrown forward into the windshield, the glass shaved off his scalp. In an instant we were thrown from peaceful sleeping into a whirlwind of panic, confusion and agony.
After we lurched to a stop we threw the doors open and escaped our trusted vehicle that had been turned into a truly sinister thing. My little sisters, ages ranging from just eleven to eighteen crawled out screaming, wailing and crying. My smallest sister, Kirsten, who had been in a peaceful little ball shot forward and smashed her face into my father’s reclined seat, she was bleeding profusely form her ruined face, her screaming muffled by the blood. Shannon the second youngest was screaming hysterically, overcome with the terror of the wreckage, our family torn apart. Emily and Effie were standing stunned and weeping. My mother held my father and tried to stop the gushing blood from the deep gash on his forehead, adjusting the giant flap of skin to cover his skull.
How dare he? Couldn’t he hear the screams of agony from across the street? He was only thinking of himself and all the trouble he would get in for underage drinking and drunk driving. He didn’t walk across the street to see me holding my tiny 90 pound sister staining her little, white stuffed rabbit a dark red, soaking my pants from the waist to the knees.
From his safe vantage point standing with the police he couldn’t see my other sisters, their innocence ripped from them. Children are blessed with that innocence, the feeling like the world is a safe place like they will live forever, that boy took that away and they will never believe in their own childlike immortality again. It is a crime to make children so young worry about dying, to make them fear their parents are dying.
He probably didn’t think about how terrible it was to ride alone in an ambulance for the first time without your mother, how surreal the flashing lights were when they glistened, reflected on the blood of the people you loved. That boy will probably never know the pain of seeing his mother limp into a hospital her legs black with bruises and refuse treatment to stand by the bedside of a little girl strapped to a gurney, vomiting blood.
He will probably never hear his father scream as his scalp is being stapled back in place. That boy won’t have to look at my family at all and see the scars, after his night in jail; he won’t have to think about it ever again.
A boy, his beer and his car changed my parents’ life forever; changed my sisters’ lives forever. On my birthday that stupid boy and his beer changed my life forever. I just want to ask him if it was worth it, was it fun?
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