Grim Reality

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By The Staff

Mothers Against Drunk Driving estimate that 11,773 died as a result of drunk driving accidents in 2008 in the United States.

That's more than 31 percent of the 37,261 traffic fatalities reported that year.

In 2006, 1.46 million drivers were arrested for driving while intoxicated in the U.S.

These statistics give us a reason to understand why MADD is so passionate about its mission, but unfortunately, sometimes statistics don't help us understand the consequences of a bad decision.

Wednesday, April 7, Marion County High School students heard a more personal story about what driving drunk can mean during a "Ghost Out," which was organized and sponsored by the Marion County Safe Community Coalition.

Stephanie Wardrip told the assembly about her son, Branson Taylor Warner-Cummins. Branson was 6 years old when he was killed as a result of an accident caused by a drunk driver.

Sometimes it's too easy to look at statistics and shake our heads in disbelief at how oblivious people can be about the consequences of their actions. It's hard to overlook a mother, fighting through tears, as she tells her son's story in hopes that someone else's mother won't have to tell a similar story.

Anyone with a child in their life could understand Wardrip's pain, and hopefully they understood the message as well - drunk driving hurts people. It hurts families. It hurts friends.

To reinforce that message, 13 students and one teacher were randomly selected by the Grim Reaper to "die" that day. The point was that drunk driving accidents can affect anyone.

Sometimes the victim is the drunk driver. Often the victim is a passenger or someone in another vehicle.

Regardless, once they are gone, they are gone.

Groups like MADD and the Safe Community Coalition have done good work to raise awareness of the effects of drunk driving. Despite their efforts, far too many Americans remain unconcerned about how their decisions could change or end someone's life in an instant.

Our hope is that the students and the adults in the audience will remember what Wardrip had to say. We also hope that message reverberates throughout the community.

Driving drunk is dangerous. It can be deadly, and it should definitely be discouraged.