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2019 Never Drink and Drive Scholarship Winner Gillian Pritchett

How Drunk Driving Affected Me

By Gillian Leighann Pritchett                

Gillian PritchettStatistics show that two in three people will be affected by drunk driving in a lifetime; I have had three drunk driving crashes change my life forever.

In 2006, when I was eight years old, I was asleep in the backseat of my mom’s car when a drunk driver hit us head-on. Two years later, a teenage drunk driver slammed his car into my family’s rental house, which resulted in his death and months of reconstruction to the house; however, it’s the final event that prompted me to take action against drunk driving and has affected me the most. On July 13, 2011, my 22-year-year old cousin, Tiffany Herman, was doing what she did best – helping someone. She was helping our aunt pack some clothes to escape her alcoholic husband, Jim. While there, Jim showed up drunk with a knife and a gun. Somehow they escaped, only to be chased by Jim in a truck. He rammed their vehicle, causing them to crash. Tiffany was killed instantly, and Cindy was hospitalized for 10 days.

We all knew Tiffany was in heaven, but it was a devastating loss. Tiffany was the bright light in our family, and suddenly she was gone. Not only did I have to cope with her loss, but I had to face the fact that the person who killed her was someone our family had grown to love.

I didn’t want to be seen as a victim and I didn’t want Tiffany’s death to be in vain. Tiffany was always helping people, so I took a stand. At age 13, I partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and began speaking to Victims Impact Panels about my experiences, in hope that I could make a difference. Having been a victim of a drunk driver and still reeling from the loss of Tiffany, it was extremely difficult to stand before an audience filled with drunk drivers. However, I did it, and still do it, in hopes that people will learn from their mistakes and choose to make better decisions. The next year, I began serving on MADD’s Georgia Teen Influencer group, serving two years as a role model who searched for positive ways to influence teens.

Next, I partnered with the Georgia Department of Transportation’s “Drive Alert. Arrive Alive” program to spread awareness of the hazards of distracted and drunk driving. As the Middle Georgia Teen representative for MADD, I advocated at the state legislature for stricter drunk driving laws and ignition interlock systems for first-time offenders.

Additionally, I speak to local driving classes about how distracted and drunk driving is a hazard to everyone’s health and asked them to sign a pledge card promising to never drink and drive.

I am no longer a victim of a drunk driver. I have learned the joys of serving my community and putting others’ needs above my own in hopes that even if I just reach one person, perhaps I can save a life, and I can make a difference.

James Johnson

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