Drunk driving among students becoming more prevalent as time passes since 2015 crash

According to the CDC, one in 10 teens in high school drinks and drives.

Photo used with permission from Google Commons

According to the CDC, one in 10 teens in high school drinks and drives.

Every day, 29 people in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashes involving alcohol. This is equivalent to one death every 50 minutes. Unless you’re a freshman, you’ve probably heard that statistic before. In March of last year, the SGA worked with the Montgomery County fire and police departments to present their quadrennial spring project raising awareness for drunk and distracted driving. The project was meant to essentially drill into the heads of students the risks and consequences of drunk driving, featuring a graphic, staged car crash at the front of the school and a “living dead” demonstration. The project was certainly successful in raising awareness as well as emotion, but it seems that some upperclassman drivers failed to digest the information as being relevant to their own lives.

After witnessing this project and the emotional distress it generated among my friends, one can imagine the unease I felt when I started hearing from peers about multiple incidents of drunk driving among students from this school. One senior was even seen wearing a T-shirt reading “end sober driving,” and stories were circulating among upperclassmen of even more participating in the life-threatening act.

Algebra teacher Suzanne Hosking has, for years, been open and vocal about the topic of drunk driving with her students after being impacted by a drunk driving accident in 2015. “A week after my older son’s high school graduation, two of his closest friends were killed in a car accident in the Wootton school district. So, every year before prom and graduation, I read my class a letter that the father of one of the kids who died wrote to his younger son’s class. I have that letter on my bulletin board at all times for anyone to read,” Hosking said.

As the classes who were impacted by the accident have graduated, drunk driving is once again becoming an issue among students. “When this accident happened, I would say for five years it was not an issue because everyone knew these kids who were killed in the crash. I think as the time period of that has gone by, it’s becoming more of an issue again,” Hosking said.

About last year’s SGA presentation, she said, “I’ve been here a very long time, so I’ve seen that presentation many times. Again, when we were like five years out from that accident, I think it was very impactful for the students because they knew or had heard of students who were actually killed in a drunk driving accident in this area. Last year I saw kids giggling and making fun of it, which makes me angry because it hits so close to home for me. So, I think it has less and less impact as time has gone by since it actually happened and affected students at Wootton. But, I think students really need to know that this can happen so I want them to keep doing that, because I think if it even helps one student it’s made an impact.”

An anonymous senior agreed that last year’s presentation was less impactful than it has been in previous years, saying “I think it wasn’t that effective to be honest. Most of the people around school were just making jokes about it. No one took it seriously.”

This same senior said he has observed drunk driving among his friends. “I believe it is a terrible issue at our school. I personally have a friend who insists on driving home no matter what. He believes that he is smart enough to tell himself when he doesn’t feel comfortable to drive. I have had plenty of arguments with this friend and there is quite literally nothing anyone can say to change his opinion. I don’t think kids like him think of the risks beforehand. They only want to get back home and not get in trouble with their parents.”

Senior Addy Ziafat said, “Nowadays everyone is driving young. The younger you are, the more reckless you are and the less time you take to think about the consequences of your actions. I have seen students from our school driving drunk. It’s unsettling how caution isn’t thought about when it comes to driving while inebriated.”

Another anonymous senior said she believes drunk driving is a prevalent issue among students. “It is easy for students these days to have access to alcohol and feel the need to drive home still under the influence. They don’t consider the risks before doing it, they think it’s funny or impressive to their friends,” she said.

To students who know of friends or peers that engage in drunk driving, Hosking said, “Do everything you can to tell them that it is a real danger. It’s happened in this community. It’s happened in every community. It happened to people that I knew when I was in high school. Talk to them about the danger.”