Tough laws don’t scare drunk drivers

By Staff Writer
April 21, 2005

KRT

It’s a brisk Saturday night and there’s a sense of excitement that seems to hang in the air for Cabrini students milling about in house five (Casey House). Life bustles wildly inside as many of its residents are getting ready to “go out tonight.” There are doors slamming, people are yelling down the hallway to “hurry up and pick out an outfit,” cell phones are ringing and the infamous express line to the shower is moving right along, leaving trails of soggy footprints behind from drenched shower sandals.

Eighteen miles from Radnor, Pa., Philadelphia Police Officer Raymond Plymouth, is on Delaware Avenue near Summer Street responding to a hit and run call. A drunk driver crashes into Plymouth’s police car. Plymouth’s body post-impact now consists of a broken pelvis, four broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, bruised kidneys and liver and knocked-out teeth. The driver that hit Plymouth had no injuries. “I was perplexed. I’ve locked up so many DUIs that I didn’t think I was ever going to get hit by a drunk driver. It’s given me a new outlook on life,” Plymouth said.

According to Poynter, drunk driving laws were toughened over a year ago but according to statistics during the first 11 months, from Feb. 1, 2004 to the end of that year, half of those charged with drunk driving had a blood-alcohol content of 0.16 percent or higher, twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent. “I feel that the laws need to be made tougher. It doesn’t just affect the operator but also the family. Anybody can drink, as long as you drink responsibly,” Plymouth said.

Efforts everyday are made by advocates to put a stop to the staggering statistics of drunk drivers. Charlie Schaffner, the director of public safety, said “There have been a couple of incidents on Cabrini’s campus, but they’ve involved the police coming to campus for other reasons and them bumping into, stopping and arresting people for drunk driving.”

Every 30 minutes, almost 50 people are killed by impaired drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). This means approximately 2,400 people a day die as a result of a drunk driver. An impaired driver is defined as “someone whose performance of driving tasks are reduced due to the effects of alcohol or other drugs,” according to NHTSA.

Kristin Poroski, a junior elementary and special education major, recalls how drunk driving has affected her life. “My brother left the bar one night, thinking that he was okay to drive home. While he was about a block away, he wrapped his truck around a tree Luckily, he was fine and walked away from the accident. He doesn’t remember hitting the tree, but his six-month-old truck ended up with $20,000 worth of damage. He said that this accident proved that if you have a couple drinks and think you’re okay to drive, maybe you aren’t,” Poroski said. Impaired driving is the number one cause of death among the ages of 15-20. “It’s better to be safe than sorry, so if you want to go out for a few drinks, call a friend or cab to bring you home. It’s better than wrecking your vehicle or, worse, killing an innocent person,” Poroski said.

Alcohol awareness posters have lined the hallways of Cabrini College, attempting to educate students that there is a lot of things that they can lose while they drink, but drunk driving accidents still happen.

“It was August 2002 and it was midnight. I was home in Maryland a week before I was supposed to come to Cabrini and a 17-year-old crossed the double lines and hit my car at 75 mph. I had a broken foot, wrist and collarbone and shattered glass in my chest. I was a week late coming to college and I wasn’t able to be in the swim club here,” Lauren Walker, a junior special education/elementary major said. “All that the drunk driver got was probation because he was under 18 and his license wasn’t suspended.” Walker went on to explain how the accident has affected her life. Walker still has aches in her collarbone, so she uses a wool strap on her seat belt; she says the accident has affected her running as well.

There are simple tactics that can be used to stop a drunk driver from getting behind the wheel of a car. One simple step is to attempt to get the keys away from the driver. Another step that can be used is approaching them in a calm way and convince them to take a cab or have someone drive them home. All these tactics are examples that Progressive.com has provided for their customers.

Christopher Reinwald, a freshman criminal justice and sociology major and president of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), said, “SADD and its chapters believe that there is no excuse or reason to drink and get behind the wheel of a car. We do not see any reason why any person would subject himself or herself to that kind of danger. After just one drink, alcohol changes your ability to think, so even after one beer, whether you are drunk or not, you put yourself and everyone around you in danger. To me, that is just too big of a risk.”

If a visitor of a Cabrini student is of legal drinking age, has drank one too many to drive but it’s past visitation hours, would they be forced to leave? “We encourage them to find a ride home with another individual. If this isn’t the case, then there will be a talk with the area coordinator to come to an understanding that they will stay with a student,” says Schaffner. All of the victims concluded that drinking just doesn’t affect the driver, it affects others as well.

Posted to the web by Shawn Rice

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