Students Share Harrowing Stories of Parents Driving Drunk

Scholarship Competition Sheds Light on the Struggle with Alcoholism

 Students Share Harrowing Stories of Parents Driving Drunk

Not all victims of drunk driving are physically injured or needlessly killed in a collision. Some are waiting at home for the intoxicated driver to return. Others are bracing themselves in the back seat of their mom or dad’s car, praying they won’t all die in a crash.

Over the years, the college-aged children of alcoholics have seen their families destroyed by a parent who repeatedly drives drunk, but now they are shedding light on the impact drunk driving has had on them and their families.

These harrowing tales illustrate how parents who drink and drive repeatedly put their own child at risk.

Young people who are put in harm’s way by their own parents suffer emotional stress, fear and heartbreak. Not only did they fear for their own life, but for the lives of their drunk parent, their siblings, and and even people they didn’t know who might become of victim of their parent’s actions.

“If I can’t trust my own father to care for my life, then who can I trust? One of the only people who was supposed to care for me and help me through life has betrayed me, lied to me and chosen alcohol over me,” said Savvannah G. in her essay.

California high school seniors and college students whose parents are alcoholics, regular drinkers or recovered from alcoholism, told us in their own words that drunk driving has had an enormous impact on them, their siblings and the spouses that don’t drink.

Sadly, many young people with alcoholic family members, may make the mistake of drinking and driving themselves. The winner of this year’s scholarship shared her story about her 20-year-old brother’s tragic death, adding that her own family had struggled with alcoholism.

“He may not have been legally allowed to drink, but as a college student in Texas it is all too easily accessible,” Acaica Smith wrote in her essay. She added that her family members come from a “long line of alcoholics” and  while her brother should have known better, “alcohol clouds any and all judgment.”

Annual Scholarship Exposes Struggle at Home

Johnson Attorneys Group asked high school and college students to tell us how drunk driving affected them. Sadly, we never expected so many of the students who entered our Never Drink and Drive scholarship competition over the years, would pour their hearts out about their own troubles with alcoholic parents or relatives.

Some of our scholarship competitors told us their parent or relative has repeatedly driven drunk. In some cases, it didn’t matter if their child or children were in the vehicle with them.

Many of these young people wrote about how they felt powerless. There was nothing they could do to stop the parent. Others say they survived a crash while their parent drove drunk.  As one parent was being processed at the police station, the child had to wait for a relative to pick them up and take them home.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reports that more than “half of all children killed in drunk driving crashes are killed while riding with the drunk driver.”

Indeed, students often watch their parent’s train wreck destroy their family unit. Last year’s winner of our competition, Shelby Michael, told us how her mother’s drinking and driving led to a collision and more.

“Following the car accident, my mother lost her license and slowly after that, she also lost her parental rights,” Michael wrote in her essay. “Drunk driving tore my mother from me and alcoholism never allowed her back into my life. It has been seven years since I have spoken to my mother. She ruined my childhood and put the lives of me and my sister in jeopardy.”

Others spoke about their grief at the loss of their mother, a father or a relative after a horrible, preventable crash.

It’s no wonder that so many young people told us they were scared to get in a car with their mom or dad. Others say they’ve had to pick up a drunken parent from the bar because they were too drunk to make it home. Many wrote about hiding the car keys or pleading with their intoxicated parent not to drive.

Most of these students who entered our scholarship competition over the years told us they will never drink alcohol because they saw what it did to their parent. The toll that drunk driving has on their lives has driven them to become a better person and protect their younger siblings and or friends. So having a parent who drinks and drives can help prevent drunk driving. However, it shouldn’t have to be this way. We hope the pleas from these college students will now be heard by adults.

Students Highlight Impact of Alcoholic Parents

Their powerful message is one that is difficult to hear. They’ve lost family members to DUI crashes, parents have gone to prison, and some of these young people were taken away from their negligent parent or parents.

 Students Share Harrowing Stories of Parents Driving DrunkChristopher Q. wrote that his father has been an alcoholic for most of his life. He was pulled over for DUI driving on multiple occasions. To make matters worse, his family is low income and every time the father was arrested it cost money to bail him out and pay fines. However, his 3rd DUI would be his last. He went to prison and was eventually deported because he was in the United States illegally.

“This left my mom alone to fend for herself and me, and our already low income was essentially cut in half,” Christopher said.

Chelsea M. is the daughter of two alcoholics and says she lives in a “state of constant worry” that her parents will hurt themselves or someone else.

“Drunk driving is constantly a part of my reality,” she wrote. Both of her parents have had breathalyzers installed off and on in their vehicles over the years.  “As a child, when he would pick me up in his truck, I would watch him blow into the nozzle so he could start his car. This was considered a normal part of my life.” Her father would be gone for years intermittently throughout her childhood when he got sent to jail for drunk driving convictions.

After her dad was in jail, she had to deal with her mother. She had to pick her up when she was unfit to drive, hide her keys, and she would even track her location on her phone to make sure she made it to her destination.

“The possible scenarios of her escapades perpetually race through my mind. Will my mom come home tonight? Will she be ok? What can I do to stop this? In moments of quiet, my mind wanders to wishes of her being healthy again.”

Erin K. says both her parents drink and have problems with alcoholism.

“My dad is a recovering alcoholic, and he was an alcoholic for most of my life. I am 17 years old, and he was drunk for 16 of those years. I don’t think there was a time when he was driving and didn’t have alcohol in his system.”

Alec F. told us her mother ran through red lights, weaved in-and-out of traffic and nearly crashed on multiple occasions.  “My mother was an extreme alcoholic, and often drove my siblings and I while intoxicated and almost always had a near death experience. The most vivid experience in my mind is that night when she tried to end it all not just for herself, but for her children too.”

Here are some of the problems discussed by students participating in our scholarship competition told us:

  • Death of a parent, sibling, relative, friend, stranger
  • Not knowing where their parent is
  • Falling asleep in their car with the keys in the ignition
  • Having their license suspended
  • Hiding keys from drunk parents
  • Worrying if they are going to be hurt or killed in a crash
  • Worrying about them hurting or killing someone else
  • Guilt over a parent who killed someone in a crash
  • Injury crashes
  • Fear about their own safety, their siblings or their parents
  • Worry about losing a home if the parent is killed, put in prison, permanently injured or loses a job
  • Financial instability
  • Deportation
  • Picking up their drunk parent who can’t drive
  • Watching them use a breathalyzer
  • Embarrassment
  • Loss of relationships with parents as well as other family members

Students Share Harrowing Stories of Parents Driving DrunkDrunk Driving Statistics

Roughly 28 people in the United States die every day in drunk-driving crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Over the years, since 1982, the numbers of deaths have declined due to awareness, law enforcement and technology improvements. However, there were still 10,142 people who lost their lives in 2019 due to preventable collisions.

Fortunately, some of the students who submitted essays to us had a positive outcome such as William M. who shared his father-in-law’s story. His father-in-law apparently got a wake-up call after he fell asleep in his car with the keys in the ignition back in 2017. That’s when he got his first DUI, but this came after years of struggling with alcohol and DUI driving. His license was suspended and family members held onto the car keys to prevent him from going out to drink and possibly driving.

“Over the next few months, he was able to gain enough control over his problem that he was able to get himself into a better mindset,” William said. “He got into an Alcoholics Anonymous program, got his license back, and the family is doing much better.”

Still, one of the best ways to stop a drunk driver is with financial punishment, wrote one student. She told us her “father is a person who often drives when he is drunk. He does not seem to worry about how he can harm and affect another person’s life, rather, thinks that he is okay to drive.” She added that after getting a DUI and 72 hours in jail, he’s stopped doing it. However, it was only because of the $30,000 bail. “That got him to think he shouldn’t do it again.”

We hope that the students who participated in our competition help to encourage their parents, relatives, peers and others they know or meet to never drink and drive.

Johnson Attorneys Group has been supporting our local MADD since 2014. We have seen firsthand the devastating losses our clients have suffered following a DUI crash. We feel it is our mission to join in the fight to end drunk driving in California by providing this scholarship and opportunity for college students to grow and become a part of this worthy movement.


James Johnson

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