The moment the telephone rang, I knew something was wrong. Throughout the evening, I had a vague premonition that someone needed my help. Before he learned how to drive, my good friend Joshua made the mistake of piling five of my closest friends into his father's car for a "quick spin". As expected, the combination of darkness, ice and underage drinking lead to disaster.
When I reached the accident site, I was thankful to see all of my friends alive and well, but distraught from the experience. Fortunately, the police officer did not suspect alcohol abuse and did not request that Joshua take a breathalyzer test. Technically, my friends got off "scot free". Yet a remark from the mechanic quickly snapped us back to reality. "You kids are very lucky; most cars destroyed this badly contain corpses." In the prolonged silence that followed, we acknowledged the significance of the accident: my friends cheated death that night.
Throughout the rest of the evening, we discussed how vulnerable we suddenly felt. No one is invincible, including my good friends. In a split second, Joshua made a single bad decision with potentially irreversible consequences. Despite my initial fears, I kept my composure and offered my friends the support they deserved. I didn't share my personal thoughts about the true cause of the accident: drunk driving.
Joshua's near-miss made a profound impact on me and reinforced my commitment to Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD). Although I was already a member of the group, my participation had been limited to attending an occasional meeting. I never volunteered to be a designated driver and I had certainly never taken anyone's keys away from them. That all changed. After nearly losing a car full of friends, I was determined to do everything possible to prevent another senseless accident from underage drinking.
In 2000, I was elected President of Warren High School's SADD chapter and immediately implemented a zero tolerance policy for alcohol at our Junior and Senior Proms. At both events, I arranged for designated drivers for anyone who was interested, along with free cab rides home. On graduation night, we implemented a mandatory breathaylzer test for everyone leaving the building. Fail the test, no keys. Although harsh, the program received immediate recognition from both local and national news channels. For my participation, I was named Minnesota's Outstanding High School Senior for 2000 and was later elected as a Rising Star within the national chapter of SADD.
Although Joshua occasionally teases me about my vigilance, he respects my position on the issue. I also suspect that I'm a good influence on him, as he's now a regular participant (without coaxing) at SADD meetings. I hate the thought that I almost lost him, but am grateful for the new outlook his "near miss" had on my life. Every day is a gift. Although life is filled with unavoidable problems and pitfalls, drinking doesn't have to be one of them. We all have a responsibility to make good choices. I'm proud to do my part to help those whose momentary lapses in judgement could be potentially fatal.