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Moms Talk Q&A: Talking About Drinking and Driving

Do you talk to your children about the impacts of driving under the influence?

  • Welcome to this week’s Moms Talk Q&A. We’re running it a couple days late, unfortunately, but next week we’ll be back on track and publish it on Wednesday.

I feel even stronger about the importance of designated drivers and not drinking and driving now than ever before.

Last Saturday night I decided to be the designated driver for a couple friends. Even though it was already about 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, I met them where they were already hanging out with a promise to drop them off. After all, I had a full tank of gas so why not do something good for them? I wanted them to get home safely.

After dropping off two friends I was driving home alone toward Reston shortly before 2 a.m. I was going to go get a chocolate shake at the 24-hour McDonalds on Elden Street so I got off the Dulles Toll Road at Centreville Road. At the end of the exit ramp I stopped for the red light and when it turned green I pulled into the intersection. The last thing I remember seeing was a set of headlights coming at me.

A drunken driver ran the red light and hit me. He actually didn’t stop. He just kept driving.

There are a few holes in my memory from the time I was hit to when I was in a hospital bed in the emergency room. For example, I don’t remember seeing the scene of my accident, police and rescue arriving or the inside of the ambulance. I do remember the feel of the grass as I sat on the side of the road, and the paramedic insisting that I remember his name.

I still don’t know who the people are who helped me. I’m thankful that there were any other drivers around at all at that late hour. The police told me two motorists stopped to help—a man who helped me out of my car, and a woman who called 911. I wish I could thank them. (If either of you are reading, THANK YOU.)

I was incredibly lucky. I walked away with very minor injuries. A few large bruises and a couple small burns from the air bags and seat belt. A massive headache from hitting my head on the window. Sore and creaky muscles and joints. But no broken bones, no major injuries.

Because of this accident my life has been upended. At first I couldn’t sleep, but in the past few days I’ve tired easily. I had to take time off work. I’ll have medical bills from the hospital visit, ambulance ride and CT scan. I was without a car for five days, and my likely totaled Dodge Caliber spent this week collecting lot fees after being towed.

I didn’t really cry much until I actually saw my car. I couldn’t believe the damage, or that I walked away from it. It definitely made me appreciate my life a little more. Things are finally starting to get pieced together, but I will never forget the panic, the confusion, the anger and the pain I felt. Or still feel.

I finally picked up a rental car last night and I was anxious. Will I be OK behind the wheel? How will it feel? Will I be afraid? Yes, a little. But I mostly just felt cautious. Looking all directions before going through a light. Driving a little slower than usual (to the irritation of toll road users). Everything will be OK, but there’s a lot more left to deal with.

I can only imagine what the victims of alcohol-related car accidents have to go through when . When there are major injuries . So because it’s at the forefront of my mind, this week I thought I’d ask our how they talk to their children about drunken driving.

Do you talk to your children, teens or even adult children about drunken driving? How often? What do you include in that conversation? Do you think they’re listening? Are on the issue? Do you think there are better ways to deliver the message to them?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Lauren Jost April 01, 2011 at 06:42 PM
Growing up in Prince William County, we had an extensive driving course in high school. We had a 'scared straight' sort of program where we were taught the dangers of drunk driving. A person that was charged with a DUI and hit someone was supposed to speak at the courthouse when I got my license, but he didn't show. It affects you 100 percent differently when it is someone you know and care about. I showed my 16-year-old brother the photo of your accident and I think it hits home when you see what happened. Thankfully, you are in one piece.
Nancy Loughin April 01, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Every time I see the picture of your car, I am amazed that you got out with minor injuries!! I remember a fatal alcohol-related accident a few years ago at Oakton High School, and how it affected the students and parents. It was very sad.
Mary Stachyra Lopez April 01, 2011 at 07:57 PM
That's really upsetting. I'm glad you're safe.
Barb Welsh April 01, 2011 at 09:13 PM
A horrific experience like yours Leslie, underscores why I am so thankful for all of the increased safety measures such as airbags and seat belt laws. I am sure these things have saved countless lives. We have not yet broached the subject of drunk driving with our kids, but we have alluded to the fact that alcohol leaves you impaired and not thinking clearly. I am certain that as my kids approach the driving age, and are being driven by other kids that we will lay down the law on our thoughts about drinking and driving. I will no doubt offer to pick them up any time, any where if the alternative if getting into a car with someone who has been drinking or using drugs. Although
Barb Welsh April 01, 2011 at 09:13 PM
(cont'd) I have not been directly affected by a drunk driver, I have several friends who have been--and unfortunately, their outcome did not result in them being alive to talk about it. I applaud Leslie for her being the designated driver that day, and being responsible enough to recognize that there are definitely dangers with drinking and driving. I think one of the things that is truly ironic are how many drunk drivers walk away unscathed after inflicting such harm on their victims. And unfortunately, I've heard time and time again that many DUI offenders are repeat offenders. So, I'm not sure that tougher laws, although I'm sure that they've helped, have an impact on those that drink and drive regularly. I agree that showing pictures like the one above and sharing your experience can definitely serve as a wake up call, and hopefully deter someone from driving home under the influence.
Deborah Fales April 01, 2011 at 11:55 PM
My children saw first hand how drinking can affect people. I do know that they learned from it. When in high school I told both of them to call me if they needed a ride. No questions asked and no "punishment." Just wanted them safe. I am proud of both of them and who they have become. Leslie is my daughter. I would like to thank the individuals who helped her at the scene of the accident. Also thank you to all her friends in Virginia. I live in Michigan and was unable to be there with her.
Marissa April 03, 2011 at 02:03 AM
Leslie, I am definately relieve that you are doing so well. I want you to know that I love you more than anything!!! And that if you do need anything, I am here for you. And I know your Mom (Hi Deb!) has commented, but I am very proud to say that Leslie is my cousin. And I, too am extremely proud of who you have become. LOVE YOU!
Abraham Perales, Jr. April 03, 2011 at 11:41 PM
Hi Leslie, My name is Abe Perales Jr and at a young age both Leslie and her brother Andrew knew it wasn't safe to be a DUI driver. My dad Abe Sr is a retired police officer and they both paid close attention to the drunk driver adds. At the time I thought it was cute that they would take my Coke can say that I shouldn't drink and drive. Apparently everyone doesn't believe that they are a danger to others when they drink and drive. I am very proud that Leslie learned that valuable lesson and gave thought to get her friends home safely. I am so thankful that Leslie was able to call home and tell us about it the next day. Take care
Ann H Csonka April 04, 2011 at 06:08 AM
Leslie, excellent links: Danny’s story and the Saturday Night in Suburbs program at HHS (it’s about time!). I’m always the designated driver. Decades before airbags, as a child I watched an aunt and uncle who shared a “drinking problem”. My parents were happy they took me on excursions—not recognizing the problem. Luckily, no one was hurt or killed because of their drunk driving. I stayed on the floor in back most of the time and told them why, but… They were “fine” and thought I was just a strange child. @Barb Welsh “…I'm not sure that tougher laws, although I'm sure that they've helped, have an impact…” Courts are historically forgiving of drunk driving because “everyone does it sometime”, even though MADD and many others have helped get tougher laws. LOOK at http://www.madd.org/statistics/ > One in five teens binge drink. Only 1 in 100 parents believes his or her teen binge drinks. > This year, 10,839 people will die in drunk-driving crashes - one every 50 minutes. > Teen alcohol use kills about 6000 people each year, more than all illegal drugs combined. > An average drunk driver has driven drunk 87 times before first arrest. > Virginia ranks 28th for “safe roads” (drunk driver-free). Everything starts at home . . . also see at MADD: “Underage drinking--Power of Parents” http://www.madd.org/underage-drinking/the-power-of-parents/ Your experience will make you stronger and hopefully help many be smarter.

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