I tend to get prickly when people joke about having a few beers then jumping in the car and driving, avoiding main roads on their way home in the hope of averting the RBT units (Random Breath Testing) they know are out there.
It really irritates me when I hear a traffic report which includes a list of booze buses and speed cameras to steer clear of. I even get annoyed when people tell me they drive 10 kilometres over the speed limit on default – ‘after all, who’s it really hurting?’ they ask.
I get angry about these things because I know the damage it can cause – the utter devastation, helplessness and darkness that these decisions can bring.
Three years ago the lives of my family were changed forever by a drunk driver – when he killed my cousin. The driver was high on meth amphetamines and marijuana and had been drinking as well. He drove for almost 36 hours before falling asleep at the wheel at 7am on a Monday morning and drifted into my cousin’s car head on.
In that moment he destroyed many lives – including my cousin’s partner, her mother, her father and her brothers. The driver’s choices had consequences, most of which had no bearing on him. He made a decision to get high. Then he made a decision to drink alcohol. Then he made a decision to get in a car and drive. And then he decided to keep driving past the point of exhaustion. Ultimately these decisions cost my cousin her life.
My cousin was a 24-year-old, who had recently bought a flat with her boyfriend, landed her dream job in fashion, and had her whole life to look forward to.
The driver got 11 months in jail for taking it all away. Eleven months.
This man put her family through more than a year of court appearances, in each one asking for more time to prepare his case. He jumped bail. He showed absolutely no remorse for his actions, there were almost no consequences for him.
Her family bears the brunt of his actions forever.
And that is why I never touch a drop of alcohol if I need to drive.
I hear you say, ‘Oh, but I would never do that! I’m not a drug addict. I only drink a little bit if I drive…it would never happen to me.” But the point is, you really don’t know how much illicit or mind altering substances, (alcohol included), affect your reflexes and decision making.
And since there is no possible way to ever really know, is it really worth taking the risk? Isn’t the fact that alcohol impairs judgement enough to convince us that we shouldn’t be making a decision to drive after having a few drinks? More importantly, do we really have the right to increase the risk to other drivers and passengers on the road simply in the name of social lubrication?
My experience with the justice system made it appear to be consequence free.In Hollywood, the good guy catches the killer and he “goes away for a very long time.” We assume that once the police get their guy, (or girl), society at large is safely protected and the antagonist will stay behind bars wearing a stripey jumpsuit.
It isn’t true – there are consequences. Just not always for the bad guys. This needs to change. We deserve more from our justice system. We deserve to hold these individuals to account for their actions. My cousin wasn’t murdered, but her killer was just as guilty as any other. He made conscious decisions, and they had deadly consequences.
In the meantime, my family is slowly putting itself back together. My cousin’s boyfriend has found a way to start moving on, though his young soul is changed forever. Her family remembers her every day, but their lives will always be a little bit darker since her loss. Nothing has returned to normal at the end of the half hour, but life inevitably moves forward with or without their blessing, so for the most part they have found a way to move with it.
My message is this: Next time you aren’t sure, just don’t drive. Because my sincerest hope is that one day these deadly decisions will be taken more seriously in a court of law, and that everyone will know the real consequence of driving while influenced by any substance.