Last Monday, before the Judge seniors went off onto their senior retreat, we had a quick assembly, featuring speaker Latter Day Saints bishop Christopher Williams. Bishop Williams, his 14-year old son Michael (not in the car at the time) and his 6-year old son Sam lost almost everything in one night to driving under the influence - his wife, his six-month old unborn child that his wife was carrying, his 11-year old son Ben, and his 9-year old daughter Anna. A 17-year old male was driving while intoxicated and hit their car under an underpass. As I was hearing this, I was overwhelmed at the amount the loss and pain this man and his remaining family had to go through to see him standing on our stage, calmly explaining his personal tragedy as he would about any ordinary occurence. It blew my mind away.
Bishop Williams talked of how the 17-year old teen had been drinking that year, and that the amount of his drinking had gotten worse. He told all us juniors and seniors that he was a football player, and having just gone to a basketball game at his high school, met up with friends at a Baskin Robbins nearby for ice cream. Bishop Williams described as his friends, knowing and understanding the teen was extremely drunk, took his girlfriend out of the car as he was driving off. They thought of how the 17-year old could be a danger to himself, figuring he deserved the punishment of a potential crash. What they didn't think of was how a drunk driver on the road will likely endanger others.
Bishop Williams explained how this immense tragedy in his life could've been prevented if the teen's friends had just forced him not to drive, an act all too simple, and unfortunate for the boy who caused it, who now has to carry the death of several people as a burden for the rest of his life. Bishop Williams told us of a program, Punt the Keys, started by Governor Huntsman's wife in 2007. Punt the Keys encourages young drivers (and all drivers) to, if drinking, make sure to have a plan to hand over the car keys to a sober individual, get a taxi, or stay the night, rather than drive home under the influence of alcohol. While Bishop Williams seemed to realized that unfortunately, he couldn't stop all underage drinking, he stressed the importance of "punting" keys. One intoxicated may feel capable to drive, but friends should take action and not let them drive:
In Utah, underage drinking is a crime. Unfortunately, it’s also an all-too-common occurrence. In fact, studies show that there are more than 22,000 underage binge drinkers in Utah every weekend. What’s more, because underage alcohol use is illegal (and because adolescents are naturally prone to take more risks than adults), teens are among the most likely to try and drive themselves home after drinking, instead of getting a ride from a sober friend or parent.
Yes, this punting seems like common sense, but as Bishop Williams talked to us, I realized I might not have stopped the boy from driving off intoxicated that night from Baskin Robbins. We, and I think health education as well, tend to focus on what the consequences are for the person drinking. Just as his friends did, we tend to forget that there are other cars on the road. We let it slip that one person's drinking, and no one stopping them from driving, can result in unimaginable consequences for someone else.