Death by Druken Driving

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Mothers Against Drunken Driving (MADD) does an exceptional job of putting a human face on the tragic statistics of alcohol- and drug-related traffic accidents and deaths. In its recent fund collection drive, MADD has included one such human face, a heart wrenching story told by a mother, named Tammy Cain, who lost her 18-year old daughter, Tiffany, to a drunken driver.

I share parts of this story to unveil the other side of this tragic human face, the emotional devastation and pain suffered by survivors. Raising happy, loving, and responsible children requires parents who love, care, tend, and nourish them at every moment of their lives. A life-long bond of love becomes one of grief when a precious young life is snatched away.

I reproduce parts of the story told by Tammy Cain, knowing that we tend to shun painful emotions because they are so hard to bear. However, I urge you not to skip this story because it might be painful. I feel certain that readers who allow themselves to feel the emotions of this mother, will never drive under the influence themselves or knowingly allow anyone else to do so.

Here is the story in Tammy Cain’s words, "We are so protective of our children’s health when they are babies—always checking to make sure they are still breathing. We get all their shots so they will not become ill. We teach them not to talk to strangers so nobody can hurt them. As they grow older, we teach them to look both ways as they cross the street, so they will not get hit by a car.

"We warn them: be careful. And SHE (daughter Rachel) was. She did everything I had told her and taught her. But someone else was not that responsible. A total stranger made the decision to drink and drive.

"The drunk driver did not just kill Tiffany, who was very beautiful, talented and bright. She was also very ambitious, determined and self-confident. Among all of these qualities, she also possessed great independence, responsibility and self-motivation. She was so full of life, love and laughter, totally drug- and alcohol-free, and had goals in life that will never be met. They killed my daughter, whom I have cherished since birth and was a joy to grow up with, a wonderful and dedicated sister, a caring and precious granddaughter, a cousin, a niece, and a friend to so many people."

Let’s now look at the grief that resulted from this terrible loss.

"Her room is still the same. Her closet is still full of clothes. Her life is still all around me. I keep her safely tucked inside what is left of my heart, knowing nothing else can happen to her. But what happens when this nightmare does end? What happens if I do wake up to find this is really true? Somehow it still does not seem real. I hold on to a certain amount of denial that has become a safe place. I cannot hold on to that forever, but for now it works. How do I make my life go on when this turns to ‘reality?’

"I pray I will never again be faced with this kind of tragedy. I fight for new laws and pray again that someone out there will realize how killing someone, due to drunk driving, is the same as murder. My daughter is not any less dead than if he would have killed her with a gun. ‘Intoxication’ can no longer be used as an excuse for murder."

One thoughtless action by one person can change the lives of so many people forever. Loss of one life leaves many survivors emotionally devastated for life. So, why do people still drink and drive and why their friends and families allow them to do it?

One of the reasons is that we don’t always think it through and often don’t think of the consequences of our actions, particularly, how they may affect others. We all have heard the joke, "Mom, I was too drunk to walk home, so I drove." Our thinking, often self-centered, is further crippled by some chemicals.

When people under the influence of alcohol or other drugs walk up to their car and put their hands on the steering wheel, may ask themselves, "Can I do it?" Or, they may ask themselves, "Can I get away with it." The more drunk they are, the more resounding "yes" they tend to hear. The louder "yes" they hear, the faster they drive.

But, they ask themselves the wrong question. Instead of asking themselves, "Can I handle the driving?" they should ask themselves, "Can others handle my driving?"

Consider this scenario: A friend of yours says to you, "I’m embarking on an adventure in which I may get killed or others may get killed including yourself, but come with me, anyway!" Would you go or would you try to talk your friend out of it? Accompanying or allowing a person drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs is similar to the scenario I just drew.

There is nothing more precious in the world than life.

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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