Please, please, please don’t drive while intoxicated.

I saw this on our local news last night, and it broke my heart. Here’s today’s LA Times:

The Los Angeles County coroner has identified a Palmdale teen who authorities said was killed when a suspected drunk driver crashed into her home and hit her while she slept.

Giselle Mendoza, 16, was pronounced dead at her home early Sunday after Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies said Roberto Rodriguez, 20, crashed his SUV into a Palmdale apartment building.

Mendoza was sleeping in her first-floor bedroom when a 2007 Nissan Pathfinder slammed into the complex in the 1000 block of East Avenue R before 4 a.m. Sunday, officials said.

Please let me be your Internet dad for a quick moment: at some point in your life (maybe at several points in your life) you will be confronted with the decision to drive after drinking or using recreational drugs. You may think, “it’s only a mile” or “I’ll be very careful” or “I probably shouldn’t drive, but I think I’ll be okay” or “I don’t have money for a cab”.

But here’s the thing about that: you may convince yourself that it’s okay to drive, and you may even get where you’re going safely. You may do that more than once, and start to think that you’re never going to have a problem if you drive while intoxicated (even a little bit).

But what if you don’t? What if you lose your focus or judgement for one second, and you end up hitting a person who’s crossing a dark street in front of you? What if you end up missing a light, and crashing into another car?

What will you do when you, an otherwise good person who would never intentionally hurt another person, make the decision to get behind the wheel when you shouldn’t, and you end up killing someone?

Just think about that for a moment, okay? If this kid, Robert Rodriguez, is found guilty, he’s likely going to spend most of his life in prison. He’s 20 years-old. He’s probably not a criminal, and he’s probably going to spend what should be the best years of his life in a prison, because he made the decision to drive while intoxicated.

Now think about the family of Giselle Mendoza. She was sixteen years-old. SIXTEEN. Her life hadn’t even started yet, and now she’s gone. Forever. Because a suspected drunk driver — just four years older than her — decided that he’d get behind the wheel of a car when he shouldn’t have.

Look, I get it: figuring out how to get home can be a hassle. Taxis and Uber are expensive, and public transit can be inconvenient.

But take a moment and think about Giselle Mendoza’s friends and family, and Robert Rodriguez’s friends and family, and ask yourself how much cab fare they think would have been too much.

Okay, thanks for listening and letting me be your Internet dad for a minute.

109 thoughts on “Please, please, please don’t drive while intoxicated.”

  1. Thanks for this.

    Your penultimate paragraph, which is otherwise full of punch, would be more punch-ful if it had the word “think” six words from the end.

  2. I’ve always been baffled by the decision to get behind the wheel while drunk. Thank you for speaking out about this, in the way that you did. There are many great resources out there but when someone people respect speak out about it, it seems to get through to more people.

  3. Excellent post. I would like to add that Robert will also have to live out the rest of his life knowing he killed a child. You might say he deserves that and more, and you are probably correct. But when you sit behind that wheel you need to decide if that’s something that YOU want to live with.

  4. I have no patience for drunk drivers. Thankfully, no one I know has been killed by someone else driving while under the influence, but I HAVE had friends get themselves killed.

    The guy who was best man at my wedding went bar hopping and driving himself home regularly. The more he did it, the more he figured he was fine driving drunk. Until he wasn’t, and a farmer found him UNDER his car in a field. The car had rolled several times and tossed him out the window, then landed on top of him. He was 25, and that was one of the saddest funerals I’ve ever attended.

    I’ll add my mom voice to Wil’s dad voice: PLEASE don’t drive drunk.

    1. I sadly have a friend like this as well. And I do everything in my power to remove his power to drive when I am present, but I am not always there and he ALWAYS thinks he is ok to drive. For an otherwise logical and smart person I do not understand how he can be so stupid when it comes to drinking and driving.

    2. I’ve been the person who had to clean that up, more than once. Roadways are easier because the fire department will hose you off the pavement. But I still get the nightmares. Please don’t.

  5. And this is why you plan how you’re getting home before you even go out. Seriously, have a designated driver, or arrange for a lift, or something. These accidents are completely avoidable.

  6. Very well stated. And something else. He is 20. Not 21. Not only was he intoxicated–I’ll add allegedly–he was under age. This is terrible for all involved.

  7. So well said Wil. When I was growing up my parents had a house rule, if you drank or used drugs or with friends who did we were to not get in a car, just call home and they would come get us no questions asked, no punishment. My older brother called one night when he was 18 drunk out of his mind. My parents went and got him and got his friend home safe too.

    Sadly our baby brother who is now an adult didn’t ever get how important this rule was. He got in his car a few years ago drunk and drove. Thankfully he was pulled over before he hurt anyone, but he ended up going to prison for it. Now he has to rebuild his whole life. Getting a job is hard. Finding a place to live is hard. It changes every thing about your life. And he was damn lucky he didn’t kill anyone. It only takes one quick moment to end a life. It’s never worth it.

  8. Most people who have too much to drink get lucky driving home every night. They believe that their luck will never run out…and then it does, and we’re left with this.

  9. Thanks for posting this Wil….we all need an internet Dad now and then….hopefully people will listen and take that moment to stop and think before getting behind the wheel. Such a waste of two young lives.

  10. regarding cost, a friend of mine at DUI school was forced to do this math problem:

    – add up all the costs for your 6 glasses of wine ( her case)
    – add in court costs
    – add in lawyers fees
    – add in fines
    – add in the cost of this school

    divide by the number of drinks you had.

    you just paid $1300 for each glass of wine. a cab would have been cheaper.

    i know its a weird view to completely ignore the loss of human life from the equation, but no one ever thinks they will hurt anybody but themself – i can see why the loss of life gets ignored. but people do worry about finances.

    if you cant afford a cab, you cant afford the drinks.

  11. I have a brother who will likely never walk again or use his right hand or go to college… all because of a suspected drunk driver. Thanks, Wil. I wish more people would listen

  12. also, not that i totally encourage this, but a friend one night didnt mind paying for a cab, he was just worried about not having his car in the morning and being late for work. So he paid a tow truck $75 to tow his car home as he rode in the cab – kinda genius if you can afford it

  13. This is so sad. Anytime I hear about things like this I always think that this is why we should be pour more resources into the self-driving cars. The results from Google and DARPA are so promising. If they are able to keep up their progress in this area, stories like this one will never have to happen again. I would love for a public figure on the right or left to come out with a big, JFK, like push to help farther this technology. I was rear ended while stop at a stop sign by a drunk driver 2 years ago and have nerve damage in my neck cause a bit of loss of sensation in my left hand. I just keep thinking we so close to no one ever have to go through what I went through. Thank you for sharing this story and reminding people how dire the consequences are for impaired driving.

  14. I grew up hearing the story of the time my mom, grandmother, aunt, and uncle where all in a car that was hit by a drunk driver when my mom was a teenager. My mom was the only one wearing a seat belt and is the only one who remembers the accident. My mom was virtually uninjured, just some bruising from the seat belt, and everyone else spent weeks in the hospital.

    These stupid things that are often associated with drivers in their teens and early 20s like not wearing a seat belt and driving drunk are things that I have never once considered doing. In fact, I’ve cut people out of my life when I find out that they do these things. It’s just not cool and I have no tolerance for it.

    Though, in all fairness, the fact that I’m mildly allergic to alcohol and a single glass of wine makes me go from sober to hung over, bypassing all of those pleasurable aspects of drinking that I’ve heard about really does help with the whole not driving drunk thing…

  15. I have done prison ministry and met a girl who was a successful entrepreneur. One night she got drunk, went the wrong way on the highway and killed someone. She will be in jail for the next 15 years. So much promise.

  16. Even though here in Germany it’s legal to drive with 0.5 per mill I decided for myself to never drive if I drunk something. Or never to drive if weather conditions and car conditions don’t match (first snow and no change to the winter tires).

    A car can be a dangerous tool and should be treated as such. It’s such a shame people prefer to follow “YOLO” instead of recognizing and accepting the results of their actions.

    Especially if they do something stupid and excuse it by “I was drunk”. Being drunk is by choice, so poor ex-drunk buddy: You chose to lose your control, it didn’t happen by accident, you did it deliberately. Live with it and don’t whine about! Here’s your extra amount of punishment for being a -again the cursewords- whiny -curserwords, you win again-.

    Sorry for ranting, but us old guys have to get some steam off from time to time… :)

  17. As a Dad (and now a Grand) – Lemme talk to parents for a sec:

    Make it OK for your kid to call if they (or the person that was driving) has had ANY substance that impairs driving.

    It was “the deal” I made with Kidlet after we had “the talk” about drinking/drugs (underage or otherwise) – DO NOT GET IN THAT CAR. You call me, no matter what time it is or where you are. I will come get you (and anyone else who needs a ride). No questions, no lectures, no side-eye.

    It worked. And yeah, I actually got a few phone calls to be a 2/3am taxi.

    And now I’m a Grampa…. and still the Dad of a live kid.

    1. Oops, hit post too early… In California, drinking while 20 is criminal. His licences would have been suspended if caught drinking any amount of alcohol.

  18. Having been hit by a drunk driver 4 years ago, I fully support this post. I’ll never forget the cops coming to the hospital after the accident and telling me that the driver was a third time offender. Just because you get away with it once or twice, you’re never invincible.

  19. Rule #1- don’t drink alcohol away from where you are going to sleep for the night.

    Rule #2- Same with any other recreational drug, but the time gets longer- never do recreational drugs away from where you are spending the month.

  20. Thank you Wil. Seven years ago, a dear friend of mine that I knew for over 25 years was killed by a drunk driver who got on I-5 the wrong way. She was a joyful person who touched the lives of many, and the loss touches me still.

  21. Thank you, Wil. This simply cannot be repeated enough, and it’s true for drivers of every age. Back in the 1970’s my grandfather’s brother, at the time in his 50s, was killed while driving drunk. My grandfather had offered to drive his brother home that evening and he refused, and for the rest of his life my grandfather carried the regret of not having insisted that his brother not drive.

    Too many drunk drivers get a slap on the wrist, reinforcing the idea that driving while intoxicated is “no big deal.” We need to deliver the opposite message — that driving while impaired is never acceptable, and that there is always a safer alternative.

  22. This is so important. I’ve lost people in my life to this path of decision making. They been both those who were killed by another driver, and sadly, the driver themselves. The oldest of them was 22 years old when he was hit by a driver going the wrong way with no lights on the freeway who was drunk, and she was 29. At the ripe old age of 30 now, I have finally really begun to grasp how young that is for life to end. My cousin who died from her own decisions, thankfully didn’t take anyone else with her, but left a hole in all of our hearts when she died at 18. These wounds never heal, and their impact rings out across the decades that it didn’t have to happen.

    Thanks for using your voice to remind people not to make these same decisions.

  23. Two of my sisters and I were hit by a drunk driver (though she was not young in the slightest, no one at the party she was leaving stopped her from driving) at high speeds and we’re very lucky we didn’t die. We very easily could have. In spite of that, I ended up with several severely broken limbs (which still give me trouble 5 years later, and will continue to for the rest of my life) and one of my sisters sustained serious internal injuries including a collapsed lung. The whole thing wrecked my family financially and emotionally, and screwed up the trajectory of our lives and we’re really only just getting things back into some semblance of order. All that bullshit and heartache and suffering and we’re still alive. I can’t even fathom what this family’s going through right now. I don’t care if it sounds harsh, but fuck that guy for driving, he should spend time in prison. I may have had some sympathy for him in the past, but it’s gone. Gone and replaced by scars and nightmares.

  24. Couldn’t agree more. Someone close to me caused an accident while under the influence and it’s been hard to deal with that disappointment in them. Luckily no one was hurt other than a totaled car and city property. Also their life has been turned upside down dealing with jail time, fines, canceled insurance, breathalyzer in the car, suspended license and asking people to drive them everywhere – and then of course letting everyone down with their very bad decision.

  25. this. for nick gonzalez. one of the brightest, most helpful, and wonderful people i have ever known. killed by a drunk driver while helping a co-worker with her stalled car. graduated high school just a few months before with enough college credits to be one semester short of his AA degree.

  26. Hear, hear! Kids, don’t drive drunk. Adults, you either. I’m looking specifically at several of you.

    Wil, I have a grammatical quibble. It’s “(number) years old” — no hyphen. (The hyphen is for the non-object form — “my two-year-old daughter.”)

  27. I would like to say that the “decision” to drive or not drive is great hindered by the fact that the person is well drunk and therefore not making good decisions. I would like to encourage people around drunk people are are hopefully not that drunk to be forcefully (as possible) suggestive about that fact that the person should not drive home. Perhaps offer to pay for said cab or whatever. But yes, well said and drink responsibly.

  28. My supporting anecdote:

    One night when I was a teenager (old enough to legally drink where I lived), I was driving home from a late night with my friends. I though I was OK to drive, maybe just a little bit tired. It was about a 20 minute drive home.

    About halfway home I suddenly felt a bump.

    I realized that I was now on the wrong side of the road. The bump had been my car *bouncing over the median* of the divided arterial road I was driving on. I quickly jerked the wheel and bounced the car back onto the correct side of the road — only a few hundred yards before the median became a solid concrete barrier.

    I drove home, terrified into alertness.

    I had, between alcohol and fatigue, dozed off or zoned out while driving. If another car had been driving on the opposite side of the road, we very likely would have collided head-on at speed. If I had done the same thing thirty seconds later, I would have drifted into a solid concrete wall and may have spun out of control. If I had done the same thing on the winding, narrow road up the hills to my house, I would have gone off a cliff or into someone’s living room.

    I was incredibly, incredibly lucky that night, and even thinking about it again I can’t quite believe it happened.

    I wish I could say that was the last stupid thing I did as a teenager, but it wasn’t. I will say that it made me a lot more careful and aware of my alertness levels when driving.

    So, kids: Don’t drink and drive. Don’t drive when you’re really tired. If you think you’re having trouble staying alert while driving, pull over and rest. Call someone and tell them that’s what you’re doing. Even if you’re only ten minutes from home, make sure it’s a safe ten minutes, and that you make it there okay.

  29. Well said. We also need to increase the penalties for driving drunk to make it less desirable to people to risk it.

    Twelve years ago when I was in Australia visiting my college boyfriend, when he and his friends were making plans to go out, the conversation was who wanted to drive and leave their car at the bar overnight. There was no thought that any of us would be driving home after drinking (of course, there was no thought that someone might not drink either, but they are Aussies!) My boyfriend left his car, we all took a taxi back and one of his roommates dropped us at his car the next morning.

  30. What you refer to is so tragic – plus I presume being 20 that the alleged driver was not even supposed to have liquor in his system? There is no excuse – don’t do it. Think – call someone – save a life!
    I wish all cab companies would drive intoxicated people home for free.

  31. Wil, thank you for this much needed message.

    My friend’s husband was killed several years ago by a drunk driver. He was coming home from his first night at a new job; she was 22 years old and had been out drinking with some friends. She got on the freeway going the wrong way, and hit him head-on. She survived; he did not. So many lives shattered; my friend & her son; the young woman, her family. Years later and the impact of her decision to drink & drive is still having tangible effects on the lives of my friend and her family.

    So please. If you drink, or use drugs, or are even just over-tired and not fully alert. Please. Don’t drive.

  32. My aunt got in a car with a drunk driver. He died in the crash. She suffered severe brain damage and injuries that plague her years later.

    Please listen to Dad. Don’t do it. It’s not worth it.

  33. A couple Christmases ago a friend of mine had been drinking at a dinner party at his own apartment, when he realized he needed to move his brand new car off the street because of snow plowing. All he had to do was drive it less than a block into the parking lot, so he figured he’d be fine.

    Turned out driving drunk was a lot harder than he thought. He misjudged the turn into the lot (which he’d turned into 1000s of times), skidded on an icy patch, and crashed into a sign. A cop across the street saw the whole thing, came over and gave him a breathalyser on the spot. No one was hurt, thank God, but his new car needed hundreds of dollars in repairs. Not that he could have been driving it anyway during that time, since the d.w.i. charge lost him his license for a YEAR.

    And rightly so, because this shit is serious. It’s never safe, no matter how short the distance.

  34. To (loosely) quote a radio ad here: “Of course you feel confident driving after drinking. That’s what alcohol does, it makes you overconfident. *That’s why people drink it*.

    But when you drive intoxicated it’s not you who’s driving, it’s the alcohol.”

    (From Galgalatz, a major radio station in Israel)

  35. Had a drunk driver total my brand new van several years ago while it was parked in front of my house. He hit it so hard that the wheels on the other side hit the curb with enough force to snap the wheels off the axles. Thank god it was parked where it was though as if it wasn’t the guy would have gone right through my daughters bedroom window which was only a sidewalk width (about 3 feet) away from where the van was parked.

  36. p.s. Personally, I don’t get alcohol. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t affect me much (it makes me tired before it makes me tipsy and some types make me ill) but still.
    You can be happy without it. Us geeks, we don’t just go out to get hammered because that’s our form of entertainment, we have geeky forms of entertainment that we drink during, but can do without drinking.
    Say, a tabletop game can be interesting if you drink, but you’ll have fun even if you don’t. As opposed to muggles going out to get drunk where if you don’t drink you may feel left out.

    I don’t get the *need* to drink if you know you’re driving.

  37. And another reminder that I need to move Little Man’s bed. We live on a corner lot and Little Man’s bedroom is that corner…and his bed is there. I need to rearrange his room. There are far too many stupid people in the world.

  38. I teach high school, and I can tell you one of the worst experiences is having to go to a student’s funeral. Whether they were the driver or the victim, it is pretty awful. Thanks for the reminder.

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