This post originally aired as a commentary on KOSU Radio, September 3, 2013.
When the phone rings after midnight the news is never good.
In 1987, the phone in my dorm room rang just before 2 a.m. I knew before I picked it up that something bad had happened. On the other end of the line was my father sobbing. He called to tell me my brother Billy had been in a bad motorcycle wreck. The early reports were not good. His feet were crushed and his pelvis was broken. He was hit by a drunk driver in a busy Los Angeles intersection.
But — and I can’t tell you how lucky we are that this story has a but — miraculously he lived, even if it changed his life forever…
Keith and Dixie Swezey know what it’s like to get a bad phone call late at night. In 2009, their precious daughter, their beautiful Erin, was killed by a drunk driver — a repeat offender — on the Kilpatrick Turnpike. He was also killed.
In 2011, Keith and Dixie, with the help of Senator Clark Jolley and Rep. Jason Nelson, got the Erin Swezey Act passed. It requires ignition interlocks for all repeat offenders and first-time convicted drunk drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or greater. It’s a step in the right direction.
In the past five years, there have been 1128 DUI-related fatalities in Oklahoma. These are cruel and unthinkable losses.
Two weeks before Erin died she wrote something in her journal. A short note she titled My Message To The World. Underneath it she wrote “Sharing My Peace, My Creator, My Sustainer, My Protector, so that everyone may know the happiness that comes from a life lived under Christ.”
We need more sobriety and wellness courts in Oklahoma. These are sometimes called DUI courts, and they’re very effective in addressing the alcohol addiction of repeat offenders.
We need more though — automatic license revocation and mandatory jail sentences. We need parents to be parents and friends to be friends. We need more vehicles impounded, confiscated and immobilized. We need to reverse the perception that driving after a few drinks is a social norm. It is not normal. It is serious stuff that gets innocent people killed.
By now, you’ve heard the clever campaign: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving. I’m starting a new campaign: It’s called
Sick, stupid, careless, reckless, sick, stupid, not smart, dumb, dense, dull, dim, oughta-be-shot-at-sunrise, asinine, brazen, pompous, arrogant, big-headed people drive drunk.
But, really. Shaming doesn’t work.
It should just be Sick People Drive Drunk. And, if you’re sick, you should do something to make up for it like get some help before you kill somebody’s baby girl.
Erin’s story is not over. Death is just a bridge. She is not lost, we just feel lost without her. She was so magnificent that death has not silenced her beautiful voice and spirit. Her parents started a foundation, which recently awarded two scholarships to members of the Sigma Phi Lambda sorority. Erin lives on beyond memory, beyond time and space.
What is your message to the world?
For more information about Erin’s message, visit ErinsHope dot org.
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