This item originally appeared in the October 7, 2004 issue of The Tech Talk.
Imagine receiving a call at 3 a.m. from the last person you'd expect -- a city policeman. Imagine sitting in bed breathless as the voice on the other end informed you that your son or daughter had been killed in a car accident. Imagine the scene and seeing the car you gave your child as a birthday gift now wrapped around a telephone pole.
Now that all of this is in your mind, wake up. Imagine this being reality.
The first week I was home for summer vacation, I couldn't count the number of families who were forced to experience this harsh reality. It seemed as if the number of teenagers killed in car accidents every weekend kept going up.
What was the cause you ask? Alcohol for the most part, coupled with a need for speed on the roads. Notice I said teenagers were killed, and alcohol was a factor. Last time I checked, the legal drinking age was 21. This is not to reprimand under-age drinking; it's just to say maybe there was a reason for making the drinking age what it is today.
According to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Web site, last year in the United States, 17,013 people were killed in crashes involving alcohol, representing 40 percent of all traffic deaths.
Each year an estimated half a million people suffer injuries in alcohol-related traffic crashes. Also according to the Web site, there was a three percent decrease in fatalities from 2002 to 2003 -- the first decrease in five years.
In 2003, 47 percent of all Texas' traffic deaths involved alcohol. Underage drinking is the No. 1 youth drug problem in America, killing more young people than all other illicit drugs combined.
In fact, Dallas and Tarrant Counties have the highest rate of alcohol-related crashes in the state. That's the place I call home.
That same weekend after I had just started my summer vacation and before hearing the tragic news of teenage deaths, I went out with friends and had two Long Island ice teas and a Smirnoff. You know that song, "Tipsy?" Well, I was one of the ones "in the club gettin' tipsy."
But the thing is that I know my limit and choose to make responsible choices.
It's also a good thing I have friends who are there for me during those times. It's good to know I always have a place to sleep after a wild night out on the town. Unfortunately, not all people drink responsibly, which is why those statistics are as high as they are.
I know I'm not perfect, and neither is anyone else. We all make mistakes. But when I think about my little brother on his way to turning 16, I hope and pray he makes less mistakes in life when it comes to driving. I also hope my mom and I have taught him enough about not drinking and driving.
Even if you're not from Texas and could care less about the previous statistics, play close attention to this next fact, because if you're reading this, then you probably have a connection to Louisiana.
According to an Oct. 1 Associated Press article, state officials warn that bars in all college towns will be watched carefully, following a raid at a popular lounge near Tulane University (in New Orleans) where authorities caught 61 minors being served alcohol. The crackdown resulted in 69 misdemeanor summonses for underage drinking, public intoxication and bartenders serving underage customers. So although the laws at clubs and bars may not be as strict right now, making it easier for minors to drink, they will eventually be. Do you really want to take that chance? At least if you do drink, be responsible.
Friends don't let friends drive drunk. Take heed to this cliché and don't be another statistic.
Amber Miles is a senior journalism major from Dallas and serves as editor for The Tech Talk. E-mail comments to email@example.com.