It would be easy to indict the NFL for the recent tragedies of Joshua Brent and Jovan Belcher, but the issue is bigger than the NFL.
Don’t drink and drive. It’s a warning we know all too well. Since the inception of organizations like Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in the 1980’s there’s been national print, television and digital advertising and PSA campaigns that bring to light the seriousness of driving under the influence and/or driving while drunk. Maybe we’ve heard it too much. Maybe the impact it once had was dimished because while we all “know” it, somehow, somewhere, the message is being lost in translation.
Then it happens. A brother, husband, father, sister, mother, daughter, son, friend—teammate gets killed in car accident by a driver who was under the influence. We inhale in shock and awe, not at the all too common tragedy, but at the presumed guilty party who has status, money, access, resources and/or some element of fame. How can he/she be so careless? Why didn’t he just call a cab or get a driver? Who would risk everything?
You would. In fact, in my best guess I estimate that more than 85% of the readers of this blog have operated a vehicle under the influence. The immediate argument is just becuase you drink doesn’t make you drunk or ill-prepared to operate a vehicle. While that argument has some merit, at the end of the day, when a life is lost and other lives are changed forever, it is an argument you cannot win.
Operating a vehicle under the influence is just bad. Period. Drinking responsibly can save lives, like Kassandra Perkins, for example. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel:
Jovan Belcher drove after drinking last week. Police discovered him at 3 a.m. last Saturday sleeping off a night of partying in his Bentley, which was parked yet running. The cops gave him a break; he was allowed to go inside a nearby apartment complex and get some rest. Hours later, he went home and shot Perkins nine times.
While it is a reach to conclude that a drunk driving arrest could have stopped Belcher from killing her, it does make you think about the possiblity.
So what can we do? Well, the NFL is already doing something, and has been for quite some time. The NFLPA operates a “safe ride” program to get players back home safely. For $85 they can call a number and get a driver to pick them up and bring them home, and hey need to start using it because DUIs comprise the most legal issues for the NFL. Consider this (according to Yahoo! Sports):
A study by the San Diego Union-Tribune found that 112 of the 385 NFL player arrests (29 percent) between 2000 and 2008 involved drunk driving.
Think about these statistics:
There are are about 25,000 alcohol related deaths and car crashes each year
One American life is lost every 20 minutes in alcohol related auto crashes
Over 65% of all single fatal car crashes is alcohol related
These statistics should make us rethink our message and our behavior. We shake our fingers at those who get caught saying they should make better decisons– split second decisions from minds already impaired.
The truth is that Joshua Brent had the potential for doom when he left his house and decided on a night of partying with himself as the driver. The real challenge in stopping drinking and driving begins before a person ever leaves their house.
We all have to do better. Talk about it more, and share these stories–tragic stories of lives lost and forever changed. They are the horrific reminders of those four little words: dont drink and drive.
A reminder we all need.
Your Jersey Girlfriend,