Be safe on the roads

To the Editor,

The holiday party season is here and I would like to take this opportunity to speak about drinking and driving.  My husband, Wilf, was killed by a drunk driver on July 3, 2010 .  My family and I recently attended the sentencing of the man responsible for the accident.  This young man is 27 years old and had no prior DUI,s, not even a traffic ticket on his record.  In his statement to our family, he claimed "this is not who I am, I have been careful to avoid driving when I have been drinking ."  He chose to drink and drive the night of July 3, 2010 and as a result my husband was killed, my children left without their father, and Wilf's parents and countless others devastated.  The other side of this tragedy is that this young man,  who thought "this is not who I am," is now a felon and has to live with what he did for the rest of his life.  I could see it in his eyes when he looked at me and my children. 

He is a ruined young man with a lot of years ahead of him to think about what he could have done differently that night in July.  He could be you,  your son, brother, or other loved one and now his life is changed forever too. His family is also devastated. They have also lost a loved one, just in a different way.  There was so much pain in that courtroom you could almost see it,  even the judge had to call a recess because he was overcome with emotion as my daughters read their victim impact statements.  All this pain was caused by one person's choice to get behind the wheel after a night of "partying".    What I would like for everyone to learn from this, especially young, new drivers, is that it only takes one time... one really bad decision when drinking... to cause pain in many lives, including your own.  The time to make the decision about whether to drink or drive is before you start drinking. 

Once you have had a couple of drinks your decision making ability is impaired,  hence the term "impaired driving".  Have a plan and make arrangements to get home safely before you go out to your next holiday party.  Pay attention to the people around you when you are out and don't knowingly let anyone who is drinking get behind the wheel.  Do whatever you have to do to keep a tragedy like this from happening again.  Those of you who knew Wilf also know that he really enjoyed his beer and loved to go to Sam's with his friends and have a great time.  So if you are are going to be drinking this holiday season, have a beer for Wilfy, but also respect his memory and the life he enjoyed so much by not driving when drinking, or letting anyone else.  I would like to adapt the same slogan that is used by the Montana Meth project and tell everyone:  "Drinking and driving, not even once!" 

 So go out and celebrate the season, hold your loved ones close, remember those who are no longer with us... and please, take care of yourself and others by being safe on the roads. God's blessings for everyone and a Happy and Healthy New Year for us all!   

Cathy Struck

Red Lodge