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Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014

Holiday marks time of danger

Sunday, May 26, 2002

If today's column sounds like a broken record, you've been paying attention. For a dozen years now I have written a one-man crusade against drunk drivers over this first-of-the-summer holiday weekend. But as we all know, it goes far beyond drunk drivers. Carelessness, inattention, the emergence of cell phone usage in automobiles and the excitement of the holiday weekend all combine to make this one of the deadliest weekends of the year. Oh how I wish it were not so.

I read a report last week that an estimated 200 graduating seniors would be killed on the highways following prom weekend in high schools across the nation. Just to think of that sobering statistics runs chills down my spine. As the father of three who have all attended those proms and visited the lakes over the Memorial Day weekend, I know the anxiety that only a parent could feel. So here's my preachin' for the day.

If you must consume alcohol - that's fine - just leave the driving to someone else. Do not under any circumstances put yourself behind the wheel when you've had too much to drink. I honestly don't worry about the drunk driver because if they choose to take their life in such a ridiculous manner, that's their own darned fault. I worry about the innocent teen-ager or older driver who is the victim of that drunk driving stupidity. Kill yourself if you wish. Don't take another innocent life.

I have long argued we pay far too little attention in this nation of automobiles to the hazards of the roadway. The courts are far too lenient on drivers who risk the lives of others. Drunk drivers should spend time behind bars and then face ample community service to drive the point home against drunk driving. But a good lawyer and a fat checkbook will virtually guarantee a simple slap on the wrist for first time DWIs. We need to change that and change it soon.

The roadways of America are dangerous by any measure. Combine that with added holiday traffic and the excitement that the advent of summer brings and you have a combination for disaster. I've seen it too many times. It happened 11 times over last year's Memorial Day weekend. Ten times the year before.

I've told the story before and I'll repeat it here. As a cub reporter I happened upon a horrific accident just south of Sikeston some 30-plus years ago. An army of police and medical personnel were attending to the injured in a frantic dash against time. As I approached the carnage, I heard a woman moaning just a short distance away. An ambulance crew was working feverishly on her injuries and then it happened. She stopped moaning and the crew began to move on to other injured victims. That moment of death - I later learned it resulted from a drunk driver - was an event I remember some 30 years later. And I'll carry that memory to my grave.

Take your time and drive carefully. Drink if you like but do not drive. Hand the cell phone to someone else and keep your mind on the road. Be patient. And above all else, pay attention for those drivers who do not heed this warning.



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