Haley Ritchie is One of Nine Finalists for the Johnson Attorneys Group Scholarship
Here is Haley’s Essay:
The phone rang in the dead of night -it was a paramedic asking my mother if she recognized the number. It was grandma’s cell phone but she was only able to communicate my mother’s name. Grandma had been found unconscious on the road. Then it became a blur-a frantic race to the hospital, mom arguing with the doctor that it was a medical emergency because her mother did not drink. Then accepting the reality that lab tests do not lie.
Though we focus on youth drinking and driving, the consequences touch every generation. Ultimately there may be death, devastating injuries, unemployment (and insurance loss), legal fees, separation from families, and damaged relationships. Costs to taxpayers skyrocket as public service programs must accommodate and fund the court and prison systems. Shockingly, drunk driving costs the United States over 132 billion dollars each year.
As the case with my family, the struggles did not disappear after a court sentencing. Often an arrest for drunk driving is a sign of an unrecognized problem that can require mountains of time, battles, and treatments. With my grandma, she decided to make a change and go to receive rehab and counseling. Losing years of a relationship with grandma was extremely painful for our family following her arrest and discovery of her addiction. Yet we were so lucky that a life-altering tragedy had been avoided. Many families are not spared this fate, as statistics estimate that 30 people die every day from drunk driving-related accidents.
Every citizen needs to care about impaired driving because of the devastating potential to lose lives, relationships, and the financial implications to society as a whole.
Drunk driving must be stigmatized while alcoholism the disease is de-stigmatized. This begins with teaching at an early age. The seeds of learning can be planted at the preschool level
through books, media programming, and in the Safety Town programs. The dangers of drunk driving can be taught more graphically as students mature. Drunk driving awareness involving
real-life examples must be a mandatory part of all Driver’s Education programs. Lectures are ineffective, but speakers that students can connect to such as other youth can have an
immeasurable impact. New opportunities exist through technology, such as video games and virtual reality, to impact High School students as technology is an integral part of their daily
lives. As drunk driving is stigmatized peer pressure will make it not “cool.”
Unfortunately, the decision to drive is made after a person’s judgment is impaired. Thus alcohol providers must be held more accountable for intervening. Systems like key check-in
(similar to valet services) can provide opportunities to prevent drunk driving. Access to driver services such as Lyft and Uber are also key components of safety. Finally, treatment services
need to be vastly increased and readily available. Change can only be made over time, but multiple steps can happen simultaneously. Present and future generations can be spared from
the devastation of drunk driving with determination, dedication, and a clear plan of attack.
Haley Ritchie is hoping to attend The University of Findlay in the fall of 2020 where she will major in Environmental health, occupational safety, and sustainability
Pat Rillera, Regional Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Southern California, will be selecting our winner next week.
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