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Drunk Driving

How the term “Vehicular Homicide” got my attention

Writing this piece is difficult because it’s bringing up feelings of great fear as I remember being out of control, and the potential consequences of that.

My idea was to “party.” I was mostly a happy-go-lucky, let’s get fucked up and play loud music kind of guy.

I saw myself as being really onto something, that being the idea that I really knew how to enhance life and to make myself feel good. I was out for a good time…and…wasn’t everybody else? Naive and deluded are two words that come to mind.

I lived in Pittsburgh, where the roads are hilly and windy and there’s no real plan to the layout. My friends and I thought nothing of jumping into cars, wasted, and driving 45 minutes or so through snowstorms because we found out a party was happening somewhere.

After many years of living in a suburb, I moved into the city of Pittsburgh in the early 80’s. It was more dense, and had more cars. And more cops.

Around that time I developed a goal of stopping Drinking and Driving. The thought of stopping drinking never occurred to me. But I would tell myself as I headed out in my car for an evening, that I would crash at the site of the gathering, or a nearby house of a friend if we were going to a bar.

However, at 3 or 4 AM, I would reconsider. Of course, now I’m thinking with Inebriated Brain. I’d think something like “It’s only a few miles. I’ll be fine.”

And, miraculously, I was, well, not fine, but OK. I didn’t have any accidents, and I never got busted for DUI.

But, in 1980, Mothers Against Drunk Driving was created, borne of the death of a 13-year-old at the hands of a drunk driver. There were advertisements, on tv and in print, for their campaign to make the roads safer.

And then, entering the lexicon was the term Vehicular Homicide. Homicide. I saw that happy-go-lucky me, party guy, could potentially be a murderer just by going out for a night to “have a good time.”

The thing about alcoholism, though, is that it runs the show once it has you in its grips.

Check this out:

“When we think of negligent or careless actions while driving, driving while intoxicated is one of the offenses that may quickly come to mind. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nearly 28 people are killed every day as a result of alcohol-impaired driving and over one-fifth of drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported to have a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher. Driving under the influence (DUI) (aka [DWI] or [OWI]) constitutes a significant portion of vehicular homicide charges and is a problem more and more states are treating increasingly harshly. In some states, including California, convicted DUI offenders who repeatedly drive while intoxicated and cause a fatal collision may be charged with first-degree murder or second-degree murder.”

(From justia dot com)

This knowledge, and this fear, and the idea of decades in prison, wasn’t enough to deter me. Because my rational brain wasn’t in charge. It’s a damn solid strong fact, but I couldn’t make good choices, even when I knew better.

I’ve yet to be a perpetrator of Vehicular Homicide, and as long as I stay sober, my chances are really good that I never will be.

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