This post is part of my compensated role as a #TalkEarly blogger, an initiative from Responsibility.org. Talking with your kids about alcohol is an important topic to me and so is setting a good example. Please note that all opinions expressed here are my own.
Once upon a time, there was a young girl from Winston-Salem, North Carolina who aspired to be a world class ballerina. She studied from the time she was a child and eventually earned a spot at the Carolina Ballet. Unfortunately, one tragic day, this 20 year old girl was killed in a car accident.
I remember this crash all too well and in fact, most people that work as first responders don’t call them accidents. They call them crashes. But this one was especially tragic. The driver that killed her was a well-respected doctor in Raleigh and the crash took place a few short miles from my home.
The story was that the doctor had been at a nearby country club all day drinking and playing golf. And when he was finished playing golf, he headed to a local tavern that my husband and I frequently (they had a great spinach salad). And he drank some more. In fact, he drank so much that the bartender refused to serve him anymore.
Witnesses saw him leave and get into his shiny, black Mercedes. This man, with a blood alcohol content of three times the legal limit in North Carolina, then drove down a road that I frequently drove. Although the speed limit was 45 mph, it was a nice wide rode that most people took a little too fast. But not as fast as this doctor.
He was reported to be driving at 88 mph when he ran a red light and ultimately plowed into the back of a car that had just turned right. Unfortunately, that car was driven by the aspiring ballerina who was killed instantly upon impact.
It was such a tragedy that it stuck with me for many many years. She was a young, beautiful rising star. He was a wealthy, educated man. And yet his decision ended her life.
So why bring up such a tragic story? Why bring you down? Is this just another drunk driving tragedy? Yes, it is. But with many holiday parties in motion, it’s a good time to talk about it and what you can do to make a difference.
If you saw that doctor leaving the tavern, would you have said something to him? Would you have spoken up and told him he clearly wasn’t in a condition to drive? In hindsight, I can’t imagine saying no. Everyone would want to prevent a tragedy if given the opportunity. But what about foresight? It’s the not knowing that makes the behavior so risky.
As part of the #HolidayResponsibly survey, Responsbility.org asked Americans if they have the confidence to speak up and intervene before a friend or family member drives home from an occasion, like a holiday party, after drinking too much. 19% of Americans indicated they do not have the confidence to speak up.
The survey also found that men expressed more confidence in intervening than did women. The data reveals that males (58%) are more inclined to intervene and stop someone who has consumed too much alcohol from driving than females (49%). And when after going out socially, 63% of Americans said they rarely or never use alternative transportation to get home.
Since my husband and I both work from home, we don’t have company holiday parties to attend. So when we have invitations this time of year, we’re thrilled to have a chance to go out. But we have our plan in place. We’re ready to holiday responsibly.
- When driving to an event, we always decide in advance who will drive home. If it’s my party, then my husband drives. If it’s his party, then I’ll drive.
- Better yet, we do most of our socializing in the neighborhood where we’re able to walk to one another’s homes and safely walk home at the end of the evening.
That’s it. Those are our two plans of action. But if neither one of those applied, we’d still make a plan in advance. We’d go with a group and find a designated driver. Or if necessary, we find alternate means home.
And most importantly, if we saw that a friend, or even someone we didn’t know, wasn’t in a position to drive, we would speak up and we’d say something and I hope you’d do the same.
If you’re not sure where to start, please read Dr. Deborah Gilboa (better known as @AskDocG by many of us!) tips to give you confidence to speak up this holiday season.