Drunken driver devastates Airman’s family

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Dudley Callahan
  • 81st Medical Operations Squadron
December is a special time in which family and friends come together to celebrate the holidays, but it's also a time when driving under the influence is on the rise. The decision to get behind the wheel of a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other mood-altering
substances can negatively impact the life of a driver, his or her potential victims and their family members.

As Airmen, we aren't immune to the life-changing effects of drunk driving. Here's my story on how a DUI incident impacted my entire family.

The choices we make have a ripple effect that impacts not only our lives, but also the lives of the people around us.

One night last May, a man named Daniel chose to get drunk and then drive his car. After drinking at his house, Daniel drove on his suspended license and to a gas station where he bought more beer. The gas station sold him beer, even though he was clearly intoxicated and had no identification. Then Daniel got back in his car and began speeding down the roads of Dacula, Ga.

The police attempted to pull Daniel over but were unsuccessful as he sped away reaching the speed of 100 mph. Daniel's blood alcohol level was .248 and crossed into oncoming traffic head-on into my mother in-law's car. She was driving 40 mph and Daniel was driving 100 mph, so the impact to her car was the equivalent of driving into a wall at 140 mph.

You might read something like this in a newspaper the next day and think, "Well that's a shame," and never think about it again. This is only the beginning of the nightmare my mother-in-law had to endure because Daniel made the choice to drink and drive.

Daniel's car hit my mother-in-law's car with such force that her stomach and intestines slammed up into her chest cavity. She fractured both femurs and shattered her pelvis. She had bones broken in her left arm and a plate had to be put in to stabilize her shoulder. She also had multiple spinal fractures. It took two jaws-of-life an hour and 15 minutes to get her out of the car. She was immediately airlifted to a trauma hospital where she was placed on a ventilator in the intensive care unit for two weeks. The trauma surgeon who attended to her stated he had never seen a person in such horrible shape that lived after an accident like that. My mother-in-law did survive that night and so did Daniel who was also sent to another intensive care unit.

My mother-in-law, who has worked more than 30 years as a nurse, most recently as a hospice nurse, has had her career cut short. My wife, who is due to give birth to our first child in January, has also dealt with the stress due to her mother's condition. My mother-in-law planned to continue working and helping my wife with the pregnancy, but now has to deal with recuperating from her crash. She ended up spending three months in the hospital recovering and learning to walk again. In order to gain strength in her legs, she has had intensive physical therapy three times a week. She still has to use a walker because of her injuries, but she has improved some over the past six months. She still
has a long road to recovery.
Daniel is awaiting trial and is still recuperating from his minor injuries from the crash. Daniel made a choice to drink and drive that night and my mother-inlaw is still striving to survive his actions. Drunk driving is a choice an individual makes that can destroy hopes, plans and lives. My mother-in-law is slowly getting stronger and improving her condition, but many victims of drunk driving won't get that chance.

In Mississippi, a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 is considered the legal intoxication limit for DUI. However, you don't need to be legally intoxicated to experience the physical and mental impairments of alcohol. A BAC of 0.01 to 0.06 can impact a person's thought process, judgment, coordination and concentration. In order to safely operate a vehicle, a driver needs proper judgment, coordination, and concentration and to be able think
effectively. For some people, one drink can begin to negatively impact these physical and mental faculties.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's 2009 national traffic safety facts for 2009, 45,230 drivers were involved in fatal car crashes. Of these drivers, 27 percent had a BAC of .01 or higher and 22 percent had a BAC of 0.08 or higher. In Mississippi, there were 700 car crash fatalities in 2009 and 267 were a result of drinking and driving. Please consider how alcohol can destroy your life and the life of innocent victims before getting behind the wheel this holiday season.

If you or a family member has a problem with alcohol, please call the alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment clinic, 376-3452.