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What scares you?

Posted: March 13, 2017 4:38 p.m.
Updated: March 14, 2017 1:00 a.m.

Everyone has something that frightens them. For some it’s stinging insects or snakes, for others large bodies of water, flying on a plane, or even dogs. We’re not alone when identifying things that scare us; we can always find another person that shares the same fears. Many people are frightened of becoming the victim of a "stranger crime." Statistics have shown that many crime victims actually knew their perpetrator, so the thought of a "stranger crime" shocks the senses and grips the mind. Well, sometimes I’m afraid of "stranger crime" too. But the type of "stranger crime" that scares me happens nationwide on our roadways.

Drunk driving incidents have long been a law enforcement concern. The dangers of driving impaired have been explained time and again through media campaigns such as those sponsored by "Mothers Against Drunk Driving" and the S.C. Highway Patrol. Kershaw County, along with Richland County and all of the agencies within those counties were able to join together a few years back for the C.A.S.T. Grant program, which helped provide funds for impaired driving prevention and apprehension. Due to the success of the grant program, Camden City Council even allotted further overtime funding for our department’s officers so that we could continue our impaired driving enforcement efforts after the grant funds ran out. Impaired driving enforcement is effective, but only for the impaired drivers that happen to get caught. What are the alternatives to catching impaired drivers? One, the driver miraculously makes it home -- without the much needed change in their behavior -- only to drive impaired again. Or two, law enforcement does come in contact with the driver -- at a collision scene. This is the tragedy none of us wants to happen. This is the tragedy that makes criminals out of people every day from any age, race, gender or occupation. This is the tragedy that, in a few split seconds, destroys lives. 

The most heinous crimes you can think of typically involve some type of malicious intent by one person against another person or group of people. Impaired driving doesn’t come with this malicious intent. The difficulty we face in stopping impaired driving is that it’s actually the impaired person’s false sense of security that allows them to feel they’ll simply just drive home. They don’t take into account their lack of coordination, lack of steady movement, or lack of ability to keep their eyes focused and open. They don’t take their life or others’ lives into account. They just don’t think about it. Prescription medication can also pose the same problem. We’ve all seen the warning labels that physicians and pharmacists efficiently place on the prescription bottles. Private conversations are held amongst pharmacists or technicians and the patients they are providing medication to. We know they do their jobs and advise those patients not to operate heavy machinery -- vehicles -- while under the influence of some of these medications, but we know that people do. Felony DUI does result in jail time, even though there may not be any malicious intent. Impaired driving may start out as a "bad choice" but it ends with a prison sentence and sometimes, lives lost.

The heartache here is people driving impaired make a choice to drive impaired. This isn’t a conscious choice to directly cause harm but it too frequently leads to harm. I can tell you that impaired drivers have been stopped by law enforcement, or by a collision, at every hour of the day, on every day of the week, in every type of weather condition, alone or with passengers including children and infants, driving every type of vehicle with any price tag you can possibly imagine. We recently saw a horrific tragedy on the news about a 21-year-old that drove intoxicated and took the lives of two people, parents. There isn’t any way to bring a sense of justice to this type of crime. The driver can be put in jail, but nothing will bring that child’s parents back. 

So what can we do? What can we do to alleviate our fears of becoming a victim to this type of crime? What can we do to protect the innocent children in our lives and ensure we will be around to support them as they grow? 

Have the conversation

 Have the conversation about drinking alcohol and driving. Have the conversation about prescription medications or street drugs and driving. Have the conversation frequently with everyone in your life: children and other family members; friends; scout groups; athletic teams; church groups; sewing clubs; co-workers; neighbors; women’s groups; men’s groups; fellow volunteers; Sunday school students, everyone. Have the conversation and don’t worry about anyone rolling their eyes. Just have the conversation.

Finally, turn that fear from the possibility of becoming victim to that crime into the courage to take the keys from an impaired driver! We can’t afford to be afraid not to take the keys! If the impaired driver is bigger than you get the help of another! Just take the keys. Call law enforcement, but if you can, take the keys. These aren’t suggestions; they are requests. I drive these roads too, with my loved ones. I have the conversation. I’ve had it many times with friends and co-workers. I’ve had it enough with my family members that I haven’t had to take the keys, but I will. 

Will you?

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