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As a teenager, I had three priorities in life: partying, girls and my car. Which came first depended on where I was that day. The best days included all three. You might think I was a troublemaker – one of those kids that had poor grades and was always in trouble with the law. Not so. A National Honor Society member, I did not cut classes and never saw the inside of a police station. Respectful to teachers and friendly to all, I dreamed of becoming a pilot.
That changed on March 21, 1981.
My car, a beautiful ’69 Camaro, was purchased only two months earlier. It was my baby, and I put all my money and sweat into her.
But that night was about hanging with friends and having fun. Tipping a few beers was nothing out of the ordinary. Neither was getting behind the wheel after I had a few. While it seemed only natural to do it again, it was a regrettable decision. One that forever changed my life.
Heading home after the party, I stopped at a red light and glanced at the car on my right. When the driver caught my eye, I immediately switched into, 'I’m going to race this guy' mode. I only had a couple beers in me, but that was all it took to affect my thinking. During the race our cars collided – the impact jolting my body to the roof and fracturing my neck. (I was not wearing a seat belt!) Out of control, my dream Camaro spun backwards into a house.
It turns out I lost far more than my precious car. I lost my ability to walk, or function normally ever again. You see, breaking my neck severed my spinal cord, and with it my dream of flying a plane.
My hope for anyone reading this — parents, teens, drivers of any kind – is to come away with the understanding that alcohol, or anything that can even slightly alter your mind, can never be combined with driving. I have no doubt that had I not been drinking, my common-sense brain would have been in control. Who knows, today I might even be a pilot.
DriveitHOME™ is an initiative of the National Safety Council, designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. DriveitHOME™ offers free resources parents can use to help their teen build experience to become safer drivers.