Letters to the Editor

Newspaper should name DUI drivers | LETTER TO THE EDITOR

To the editor:

Every few years we read the same ugly headline. The details differ, the faces change, and new sets of families are crushed by indescribable loss.

Does it really have to be this way? At the current trajectory, we should be in the schools now, counseling middle- and high-schoolers to prepare them for the unnecessary deaths of two or three of their classmates within a few years.

No one meant for for those three young men to die on Nov. 12. Just as the driver did not set out with the intent to kill on Friday night, neither did her three passengers intend to take their lives by getting in her car. However, their lack of ill intent was not enough to safeguard their lives. So that their futures are not lost in vain, we must recognize and teach that a lack of bad intentions does not equate to good intentions. Effort must be exerted and conscious choices made to ensure positive intentions and outcomes. Good intentions require clarity and willingness to see reality.

Our present attitudes regarding youth drinking do not work and do not reflect reality. Many organizations attempt to counteract the entertainment industry’s constant barrage portraying drinking as, well, entertaining. Our law enforcement works to crack down on underage drinking. We tell the kids not to drink; many parents are even successful at pretending their kids don’t drink. Yet it all seems to be as effective as abstinence education, except with deadly consequences.

We need a new approach.

It’s not just the “bad kids” who drink. High school graduates, community college students, and Ivy Leaguers drink; multiple studies show that at least half the teen population drink. Even my cynical views do not stretch to believe that half of our kids are “bad.”

When we throw down the admonition, “Don’t drink,” we close the door to any discussion with those who choose to drink. And whether we want to admit it or not, that is a large segment of the youth population. With that blanket statement, we lose the opportunity to teach responsible drinking. I acknowledge that encouraging responsible drinking sounds a lot like condoning underage drinking. But the reality is that our current approach has only resulted in denial and death for decades.

The job of teaching responsible drinking cannot be handed off to any authority or organization. That task belongs solely to each of us as individuals, parents, friends, and community members. It should occur each and every time we have a drink or serve others. When adults of legal drinking age cannot model responsible drinking, how can we expect teens to behave any better?

While I offer my kudos to parents who stand by the hardline of “No drinking,” I also wish them luck and great fortitude in enforcing that stance. Parents can provide valuable insight and guidance only if our kids know that the door is open for discussion.

As a parent, look closely at your beliefs, values, and actions to decide where you stand. Are you willing to come get them at 2 a.m. without a scene? Are you willing to talk about your own experiences: the good, the bad, and the embarrassing? Are you willing to be vigilant, take the car keys, enforce a restriction, or give up an untenable position? Families are all different, there is no one correct answer - the only wrong answer is to not have the discussion.

With regards to drinking and driving, a massive disconnect exists in society between our stated desires and our actions. Over 20 years ago, members of a fledgling SADD chapter outlined some ideas to combat drunk driving. We asked the South Whidbey Record to publish the names each week of individuals arrested for DUI, or barring that, even just publish the names of those convicted of DUI. The Record declined, hiding behind fear of community backlash.

Where is the community backlash against dozens more needless deaths in the the following twenty-some years? Where is the outrage against funerals where there should have been futures? Is our grief so private that we should allow the names of those who drive under the influence to remain private, except when they kill or injure others?

Please join me in asking our local newspapers to publish, as a weekly addendum to the Sheriff’s Report, the names of those convicted and/or arrested for DUI. Here are the applicable email addresses or links:

South Whidbey Record, http://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/contact_us/

Whidbey News/Times, http://www.whidbeynewstimes.com/contact_us/

Whidbey Marketplace, editorial@whidbeymarketplace.com

Or would we rather read another 20 years of tragic news stories?



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