Do a Google search of the term impaired driving and you will net over 9,000 hits on the Google News page alone. There, you can see how the citizens of the world are pleading or not pleading to charges that they had too much alcohol to drink and then got behind the wheel of a vehicle. I find this deeply disturbing; have we, as a society, still not gotten the message that driving after consuming alcohol is not worth the risk?
Apparently not. One of my former students – I taught this young lady when she was in Grade 12, roughly seven years ago – was killed by an impaired driver who was driving the wrong way down the highway. The driver escaped with his life, costing this woman her own in the process. While I realize that two families are suffering greatly at the moment, let’s remember that driving impaired is a choice, and one that should never be considered. We have warning labels on medication that might make us drowsy and joke about the warning that we should not operate heavy machinery if under the influence of such medication – why is it still somehow a badge of honor to drive impaired and make it home?
I remember when my sister signed an agreement with our parents that regardless of the time of evening, should she require a ride home if she drank too much, they would come to get her without question. This was done because our father was an alcoholic, and the agreement that was signed was reciprocal in nature – my sister made sure that my father promised to not drink and drive. Of course, this promise was broken, as they usually inadvertently are by those in the throes of addiction, as my father was. It wasn’t until the last few years of his life that he was caught, three times, for driving while impaired. Each time he blamed the police for the charge, and each time I told him that if I had known he was doing something so reckless, I would have turned him in myself.
I do not know and I do not care what the impaired driver in this case was doing behind the wheel. That was the one place he or she should not have been. The risk of injury or death to anyone else when you are behind the wheel with your coordination and judgment impaired is far too high. I know in previous generations people would toddle off behind the wheel and simply drive back home. Concerns over impaired driving are only fairly recent in nature, as far as society’s lifetime goes.
However, the concerns are very real, and are not limited to alcohol use. There are those who decide to slide behind the wheel after taking a few hits of marijuana as well. Your tracking, your motor skills and your ability for rational thought all fly out the window as soon as you decide to consume something that affects your brain, and like it or not, marijuana and alcohol both affect your brain. You can no more improve your ability to drive with various strategies after taking marijuana than you can sober up with coffee after drinking alcohol.
Even if you do not have money for a cab, find a safe way home. Impaired driving, whether through the use of marijuana, alcohol or other means, puts your life and those of others at significant risk. You are not a hero, or just that good, or even smart if you get behind the wheel while impaired. You are someone who needs to stop, turn off the car, and ask for help. It is simply not worth it.
Opinion by Christina St-Jean
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