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Survivor Stories: One Bad Decision Can Change Your Life Forever

Survivor Stories: One Bad Decision Can Change Your Life Forever

I only had a couple beers in me, but that was all it took to affect my thinking.

Steve Sconzert is an award-winning speaker, life coach and driver safety advocate. Permanently disabled at 18 by his own reckless decision to drink and drive, he now guides young people to make better decisions.

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.

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