Tis the season for holiday parties, and with the festivities often comes a glass or two of wine, maybe some spiked egg nog or a hot buttered rum. A misconception in the islands can be that it’s safe to drive yourself home after imbibing because you live “just down the road,” but even here that decision could prove deadly.
The number one cause of death on San Juan County roads is drunk driving. Nationally, someone is injured every two minutes in a drunk driving crash, and every 48 minutes someone is killed. Over the last decade, however, alcohol-related car crash fatalities have dropped by approximately 10 percent, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Over Thanksgiving weekend alone in 2018, 385 fatalities were the result of alcohol-related car crashes, according to the National Safety Council.
Here are some victims of drunk drivers who were recently in the news:
• Lisette Medrano-Perez, 25; Ricardo Contreras-Medrano, 8; Andrus Contreras-Medrano, 6; Dajanara Medrano-Perez, 4; and Angelina Vazquez-Crisp, 2, were killed by a drunk driver mid-afternoon in October 2017. On Dec. 4, the driver was sentenced to 34 years in prison for their deaths.
• Paul Scallion, 88, was killed and his wife Joan, 87, was injured in a wreck at around noon on Nov. 29 caused by a 33-year-old suspected drunk driver. The reportedly intoxicated driver was on probation for a 2017 aggravated DUI, according to the local news.
• Rosa Garza, 61, and her son Francisco Garza, 34, were killed and five others were injured when a suspected drunk driver struck the car they were in causing it to hit a guardrail and roll on Dec.1.
A lot of time and effort is spent educating teens against driving while intoxicated, but it is important for adults to remember that they’re not immune to the dangers of driving while intoxicated. Adult drinking and driving is a real problem. Take a look at the sheriff’s log and you’ll see a myriad of driving under the influence entries.
When anyone gets behind the wheel of a car, they are operating a lethal weapon. Being intoxicated only makes that weapon more dangerous. If you’ve been drinking, smoking pot or consuming any drugs or medications that can cause drowsiness, do not drive.
Everyone, regardless of how old they may be, is subject to the same consequences when they choose to drive while intoxicated. This can include death; loss of driving privileges; going to jail; lawsuits; and a lifetime of guilt.
Children and teens learn from the adults in their lives that it’s OK to drive intoxicated, but the reality is that it just isn’t true. No matter how good of a driver someone is when they’re sober, drinking or doing drugs is an impairment and mistakes are more likely to be made.
When young people see adults planning for a night out responsibly, it sets a good example.
We could all stand to be reminded of what too much liquor and two tons of steel can do.
Orcas Island Taxi is offering free rides home on New Year’s Eve between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. with tip donations going to the Orcas Island Food Bank, call 360-376-8294. San Juan Taxi and Tours on San Juan Island — which now has 4-wheel drive vehicles for those snowy nights — will offer a 20 percent discount from Dec. 20 until Jan. 2, call 360-378-3550.