Saturday, 04 February 2023

McClain: A personal experience with DUI

As the chief of police for the City of Clearlake I have been asked to write a letter regarding the impact drunk drivers have on local law enforcement.


I thought long and hard on what information should go into this letter. I finally decided talking about statistics was too impersonal for a crime that can have a devastating personal impact on the individuals involved, their friends and family.


Several years ago I was responsible for a stretch of highway that was located in the middle of nowhere, but was heavily traveled by people in our community to and from the coast.


On this particular evening there was a 19-year-old college student who was traveling from her parents' house back to the coast. Traveling on this same road was a 20-year-old man who had been at work all day and had stopped off at a friend's house for a couple beers.


As fate would have it these two lives crossed shortly after 9 p.m. in an event that would change their lives forever.


The young man was driving a pickup truck which crossed the center divider and hit this young lady head-on.


The young man was able to get out of his truck, but the young woman was pinned in her vehicle, which had caught on fire. Before emergency responders could put the fire out and remove her from the vehicle she had received third-degree burns over 95-percent of her body.


As a result of this encounter a young man – who by all accounts was a hardworking, good person – spent several years in prison for felony drunk driving.


When this young man talks how this incident affected his life, he does not talk about the time he spent in jail. He talks about having to live with the guilt of what he caused on a daily basis. He talks about what it was like to hear this young lady scream for help as her car burned and being helpless to do anything about it.


As for the young lady, she was transformed from a beautiful young college student who had her whole future in front of her to a person who faced years of surgery and skin grafts just to perform the daily routines we take for granted. Because of her injuries she would not be able to return to college, she could no longer bare children and the family she dreamed of appeared to be a distant reality.


When she talks about this incident she talks about her college dreams, her aspirations for a career and the fact she will never have children of her own. Her parents talk about the beautiful young woman she was becoming and the hopes and dreams they had for her. This incident impacted the friends and family on both sides as well as having a devastating impact on our community.


What I want people to think about is not the criminal consequences of drinking and driving but the emotional impact this one impulsive decision can have on the ones you love. All of our choices have consequences; make sure the choices you make are ones that you can live with.


Clearlake Chief of Police Allan McClain is a member of TEAM DUI, a group of local agencies and individuals who are battling underage drinking and drunk driving.


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