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. Glad you posted that…we told our 2 daughters to call us no matter what…we’d come and get them, no questions asked. They’re 25 & 29 and it still stands!

  2. Less than half a mile from where my parents live a girl died on her 16th birthday because of a drunk driver. I think if you are going to drink that much or do drugs stay home and don’t go out. According to state records most accidents happen from less that a quarter of a mile from home.

    I have a friend who hides her car keys when she drinks, and I think everyone should do that.

    1. You’ve made a jump in logic. The stats say most driving accidents happen within 25 miles of your home. A) Most people spend the majority of their time driving near their home. B) It doesn’t say where he lives, he could be from 75 miles away. C) She wasn’t driving, she was sleeping, in her own home, her own bed. The safest place someone should ever be.

    2. You’ve made a jump in logic. The stats say most driving accidents happen within 25 miles of your home. A) Most people spend the majority of their time driving near their home. B) It doesn’t say where he lives, he could be from 75 miles away. C) She wasn’t driving, she was sleeping, in her own home, her own bed. The safest place someone should ever be.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I am 21, and I already have been presented with the temptation to drive while intoxicated several times. It’s important to remember that the people who drive drunk are not monsters, and that we can easily make their mistake.

  4. While we’re at it, can our culture please stop teaching our teens that getting stupidly drunk or high makes them cool? We need to teach them to drink responsibly, which is not only that you don’t drive when intoxicated, but is also that you don’t need to get wasted to have fun or be popular. (I sound like a PSA, don’t I?) We glamorize booze and partying far too much in this country.

    1. It isn’t the glamour. Teenage life is stressful. You may have forgotten that. Many teens want to feel good and drugs and alcohol provide that illusion without judgment. Not saying it is the best way, but it may seem that way to a teen. Remember that more often it is incompetence rather than malice that creates the most evils in the world.

  5. Thank you, Wil. Our city had a recent similar tragedy in which a woman who was impaired ran a red light and hit a vehicle with 4 unimpaired people. Michael Collins was 22, a passenger in the car that was hit. His body lived four days. Our community is rallying behind his family, but no one seems to know what do about the driver who made a bad decision. As a mother of 21 & 17 yr old men, I believe these stories need to be repeated often. Again, thank you. #MCStrong

  6. I’ve done it.
    One night, I was at the bar, talking to people, knocking back beers. Decided to go home. On the highway, I could feel myself falling asleep, and I knew I was blitzed. I decided to pull into a little roadside park, sleep it off. I woke up in a ditch.
    I spent the night in jail, for the first and only time. Had to pay to get my car out of jail. Had to go to court. Had to have an evaluation. Had to go to a weekend class on addiction at a hotel. Had to get my license suspended, then pay the high-risk insurance. Had to pay substantial fines. Had to do several hours community service.
    That’s what happened to me. What would have happened, had anyone been between that ditch and me is something I’ve thought a lot about.
    I was 30. Not 16, or 21. 30. Solidly in the the World of Grown-Ups. The next day was my son’s second birthday. I wondered, how many times had I driven in that condition? Probably plenty. Want to know what people are thinking when they get behind that wheel messed up? Nothing. Not a thing. We all walk through life thinking it’s our movie, and we can’t die until our character arc’s complete. You don’t have to be a kid to do something this stupid, never think it. That’s a pretty dangerous assumption to make.
    This was twelve years ago, and I still wonder about that Niven-esque alternate universe, where luck didn’t win the day, and I killed someone.

  7. Wil, you are absolutely right about driving under the influence, you don’t have to be drunk to be a danger. Simple beeing slightly intoxicated will influence your abilities and your judgement. Also driving while fatigued is also Very dangerous and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Thanks for the dad advice!

  8. I just heard about a new $50 plug-in for your iPhone or Android phone that is FDA-approved as a breathalyzer app. It offers advice on how long it will take you to get back to a state of sobriety and allows you to contact a local cab with just one touch of your finger, too.

    This seems like a great idea to me, as it can be hygienically shared with others in your group and would make for lively conversation AND a good opportunity intervene with an inebriated friend. That said, you really should be completely sober when you drive. I don’t necessarily think that just because my state considers 0.08% and above drunk driving, that when I’m at 0.07 blood alcohol level that I’m safe to drive.

    Thanks for posting, Wil. It’s important that we keep repeating the message that it’s NOT okay to drive drunk until people actually stop doing it.

  9. This post resonates with me, as it has with others. My story: in January of this year, I woke up to a loud bang and screaming outside my house. A drunk driver had lost control of her car and hit a tree, rolling the car and ejecting her unseatbelted passenger/boyfriend from the car. I was the first person in the scene. I held the driver as she sobbed until she was arrested for vehicular manslaughter. Please, please, please listen to Wil and your parents and everyone when they ask you not to get behind the wheel f a car when you’ve been drinking. Its just not worth it.

  10. On that note, always try to be aware of cyclists, they are people too, even if they may possibly inconvenience you at some stage. Recently a driver in Australia hit a cyclist and sent him to hospital for 3 months with spinal injuries. Her response? “I just don’t care because I’ve already been through a lot of bulls— and my car is, like, pretty expensive and now I have to fix it,” She was not paying attention to the road, texting 44 times in the minutes leading up to the accident. There is a reason mobile phone use whilst driving in Australia is illegal, it causes many preventable deaths.

  11. I live here and work near her school. This poor decision by the 20 year old male was compounded by his drunk mother in the passenger seat (at least that is what local sources are saying). He wasn’t alone in that “should I drive, or should I take a bus/taxi” thought process. His own family probably convinced him to hop on in and drive home. If we love our family, and love ourselves don’t drive drunk or ask a drunk to drive.

  12. When I was in veterinary school., one of my classmates was killed by a drunk driver. She was knocked clean out of her shoes while jogging. Her husband was wounded badly, but lived. She died on the scene. She was awarded her veterinary degree posthumously, and her husband limped across the stage to get it.Not a dry eye in the house. But he’s disabled now and she’s dead, and the NINETEEN year old kid who did that went to jail for making a bad decision. One life ruined, one life altered forever, and one life ended. All because of a bad decision made by a kid. Breaks the heart, it does.

    Thanks for trying to help, Wil. *salutes solemnly*

  13. Thanks Wil – Internet dad role approved, and opinion supported, it’s just disappointing that things like this need to be said.

    I was bought up to respect others and other people’s property (including your employer and your workplace), but there seems to be a generational trend where that respect has gone – the focus has become so self centered that there is no consideration for others with the result being that, rather than thinking, ‘how will my actions affect others’, their only consideration is what is best for them, ergo instead of thinking of the possible ramification of driving whilst intoxicated, they’re only thinking about the cost and inconvenience to themselves.

    Reality check: you were the one who got yourself intoxicated and therefore the ramification of those choices are your responsibility, including paying taxi fares, getting public transport, or even calling a friend/relative to come get you.

  14. It’s actually quite easy – if you plan to drink, bring either enough money for a cab, the willingness to walk home, or a dedicated driver with you. Otherwise, refrain from drinking and taking recreational drugs.
    If you feel you can’t have a good time without either (and are unwilling to care for your way home beforehand), you’re probably better off staying home. And getting help…

  15. I had that situation nearly one year ago: My mother’s 70th birthday. We were in a restaurant, and afterwards the guests (including some children) wanted to drive to a park in two cars. I recognized that everyone who has a driver’s license had drunk alcohol with the meal, and refused to go with them (I don’t have an own driver’s license). They accepted my decision and went there without me, but their faces told me what they thought about me.

    There had been no accident on their way, but anyways: I would never ever enter a car with a driver who has drunk. I have made this decision a long time ago, and I stand for it.

    By the way, as a direct reply to sharlzg: The drivers in this group were between 40 and 72 years old. So there is no „generational trend“. It seems to be more a kind of quiet agreement in society that it is just ok to drive with „just a bit“ of alcohol or other drugs.

    Greetings from Germany

    BTW, Wil, would it be OK for you to translate your article to German and post it to my blog?

  16. Translating this to our own languages sounds fine. So I would ask, too: Mr. Wheaton, may I translate and post this on my blog? In spite of being an Iranian, I totally understand “copyright” and those stuff, thus I’ll make sure to mention your name and put a link to the original post there.

  17. In 2006, my mother was killed in broad daylight on a major highway that was mostly deserted, by a woman who had SOMETHING in her system, and reported to the police that “I was reaching for my coffee or cigarette” when she struck my mother’s stalled vehicle. She was so distracted she didn’t even remember what was distracting her!

    We (the family) opted not to prosecute, because no amount of money we may have gained will bring back Mommy. We hope that the local civil courts did at least find her guilty of manslaughter, but for our own emotional well-being, none of us has followed up that “news” either.

    Keep being the internet dad!

  18. My best friend was killed by a drunk driver about 3 years ago. The driver was sentenced to 10 years, and will probably only server about 6 of those in prison. She’ll be out in 3 more years. Andy will still be gone.

  19. Besides the moral reason not to drink and dive,(which really should be enough) there are other HUGE reasons that people may not think about. Without even hurting anyone, it can be a life changing experience.

    If you are caught driving while intoxicated you will be arrested. You will have to go to court, most likely several times, which could cost several thousand dollars in attorney and court fees. You will have to most likely miss some time from work just with dealing with the legal process.
    If you are found guilty and get a DUI, depending on the blood alcohol, judge, and state you live in, (and possibly other factors), there will be fees, you may lose your driver’s license for a period of time and possibly have to serve jail time.
    If you lose your license, you will then be reliant on others to shuttle you around. You now have to burden you family and friends to get you to and from work.
    Speaking of work, depending on the company you work for, you may just lose your job over this. A lot of work places really frown upon having a DUI and even if they cannot legally fire you for that specifically, they may find another reason. And in certain cases, it will prevent you from some possible future employment from certain jobs. If you get jail time, your current work place may not allow that to be an “excuse” to miss work so you may lose job even if the workplace does not care about the DUI itself over being late or missed time.
    There are alcohol abuse programs that you may be required to complete which cost money and take up time.
    You may have to get a interlock device on any cars that you are a primary driver for. Interlocks monitor your blood alcohol when you start your car. Most people know this, but what most people do not know is that the device will also test you every 5 – 30 minutes while driving. That means if you live in a cold location like New England you cannot just go start your car 10 – 20 minutes before you have to leave to allow the car to warm up. You have to clear off your car and be mindful that the interlock may require a test before you are done. There are installation fees and maintenance costs for the interlock on top of the financial burden of the whole process.
    Once you have jumped through the hoops of the legal system and you have “paid your debt to society,” issues caused by that event will still arise. At least in certain states, police can now ask you to do a breathalyzer test any time you are stopped for any reason in a car. There are restrictions for 10 years after the fact.

    If you have hurt yourself or others while intoxicated the punishment is usually much, much worse.

    Almost every aspect of your life will be strained by this event and you may lose things you didn’t even think was possible. You may lose your job, your marriage, your kids, or even your life. Regardless of what you lose, your life may never be the same.

    To anyone who even considers driving while intoxicated, get a fucking cab. You can pick up your car tomorrow. It will be cheaper in every way possible.

    (NOTE: I am not a lawyer. I have never and will never drive while intoxicated. I just happen to have been caught in the destructive force of the process. Again, even without hurting anyone or anything, it is a terrible, terrible process.)

  20. Great article. I just want to point out that Mr. Rodriguez will likely get charged with vehicular homicide and the sentencing guidelines throughout the states in the United States are different, but I’m pretty sure in California he will not spend the rest of his life in jail. If convicted by a jury or he wants to plead guilty and “make a deal,” you would be surprised at how little of jail time this person will actually do for a horrific crime. Prayers mad thoughts to the family and friends of Giselle Mendoza.

  21. I will add to this that you need to plan for your ride ahead of time. Your judgment is impaired and you may decide to drive when you shouldn’t.

    1. I think this right here is the biggest problem. Combined with a lack of foresight about how much you may be drinking (e.g. only planned to have a beer but wound up having 6), people wind up getting into the drivers seat without ever making an unimpaired decision.

      As cliche as “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” may sound, it is really important. I think it’s also important to keep an eye out for people who aren’t our friends and offer them an alternative rather than turn a blind eye.

  22. This is the reason that I refuse to buy those little pocket keychain breathalyzers.

    I am so curious to know: “Just what does a .10 FEEL like?”. Do you feel barely buzzed, and anyone can be impaired? Or are all those people who get arrested for a DUI actually REALLY buzzed, and just irresponsible idiots. I want to KNOW.

    But I don’t want to actually that knowledge, for fear that one day I’d have a drink or two and think: “Wow, remember that one time I took my Blood Alcohol Level and it was less than a .10? I feel WAY less than that! I should be FINE!”, and then be WRONG.

    Or even … if I’m at something really low like a .05 and gods forbid, get into an accident and kill someone. I might not have been drunk, but I’d be forever thinking: “Would that have just happened if I had been at a 0.00??”. :(

  23. Thank you Wil for posting it so clearly and concisely.
    I don’t get drinking + driving at all, it’s irresponsible and disrespectful of everyone else.

    I’m shocked and disappointed that in my country (Austria) just NOW a law has been passed to set the legal alcohol limit for SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS at 0.0%. I’d have thought that school bus drivers would be chosen based on reliability and responsibility. People who drink before going to drive around a bunch of kids are neither, so I guess the law is needed.

  24. This post came at the perfect time. My oldest is attending prom this weekend, and it involves an overnight ‘party’ with some friends. Will my kid drink? Probably? Will many other kids drink? Probably. Am I worried that someone is going to drink, drive and kill my kid? Absolutely! If there is one thing I’ve pounded into the heads of all my children, it’s that I will GLADLY pick them up from any location if they need a ride, for any reason. They will never be punished or yelled at for asking mom and dad for a ride home. We would rather deliver them home safely than have them delivered to a morgue.

    1. Momma, same here. My mom made that deal with me over 20 years ago when I was in HS, and I made it with my sons. I would much rather get a call for a ride, than a call from the ER, or worse….

  25. Thank you for this post. My mother was hit by a drunk driver, and the injuries she sustained have changed her life completely. My beautiful, active mom – who survived all kinds of abuse before she had even turned sixteen – can now barely walk. She is the subject of open jeers over her weight and limp.

    It made me so proud to see a post like this.

  26. The vice-principal of one of our local middle schools was struck by an intoxicated driver and killed while jogging recently as well. The driver was not thought to have been drinking, but driving high. It’s affected our town, because he’s being mourned by his current and former students, his teachers, his family and all the athletes he’s coached over his career.

    Getting loaded and getting behind the wheel is a stupid, SELFISH act. And if people want to say I’m unforgiving and a hardliner about it, so be it. Get a cab, get a ride, plan ahead, or don’t indulge.

  27. A college senior in my former town was recently killed by a drunk driver as he was being driven home by a DD from a formal. His family chose to donate his organs and a movement has begun to pay it forward for him. The name of their campaign is #mcstrong.

    The driver’s blood alcohol was twice the legal limit. In one news article it reported that the driver didn’t even remember getting into the car or driving at all.

    A plan needs to be in place before you go out.

    1. @Shelley, I currently live in central Illinois and #MCstrong has/is making positive impacts everyday. But still we lost a man who can no longer make contributions to the community. And a woman will have to live and remember the consequences of this wrong choice.

  28. And if the plan is that YOU are the DD, don’t drink. Not even a little bit.

    I can’t count the number of times I have heard “Oh, I’m the DD so I’m only having a couple beers.”

  29. Thank you for posting this. My wife’s father was killed by a drunk driver when she was only 4 and he was 34. From stories I have heard, it seems we both missed out an having a great man in our lives.

  30. I had a friend of mine who was driving home after watching a ballgame with me and some friends at a bar. He was going through a green light, and was T-boned by a drunk driver on a motorcycle. The drunk driver, who had a BAC of .18 and ran the red light was killed instantly. My friend wasn’t hurt. but he had a BAC of .10, and because of that, he was charged with vehicular manslaughter, and did 5 years of a 10 year sentence in Folsom State Prison. He was barely over the limit, and didn’t cause the accident, yet he went to prison. Something to think about. It sure as hell made me quit drinking.

  31. Drink driving is well known to be dangerous. In the UK, the numbers of drink driving related injuries and deaths have around halved in the last decade. This is great news, for the UK at least, not all countries have the same social attitudes to drink driving. That said, it seems drink driving is being replaced by a more socially acceptable crime, talking or texting on a mobile phone whilst driving which several studies suggest is just as, if not more dangerous that drink driving.

  32. All you have to do is call your local police or CHP and tell them you went past your limit or whatever and can you have a ride home please. My dad was a career cop….he gave rides home frequently….and rarely arrested unless the person was truly beligerent….cus he knew they were get a worse ‘punishment’ at home than a night in jail….(scoldings etc)……and he thought it a better use of police time than waiting for a real crime to happen….and any police officer worth his salt would rather spend the time taxiing you home than taxiing you to jail after a drunk driving accident!!!

  33. Thanks, Internet Dad. I have standing offers to all teenage & college age kids of my friends. CALL ME for a RIDE. I do not promise to not yell at you for calling at 2am, but I will get you safely home. I remind them of this promise every time I see them.


    This woman was actually a bartender at a popular restaurant near where I lived on Omaha, where a friend of mine worked also. She is a really nice girl, pre-med student, volunteered her time to help kids with something to do with Spanish/English education, ran marathons, and generally was all-around enjoyable to chat with when our group of friends was hanging out up there. I was floored when this happened – I could not believe that such a horrible accident had happened through the actions of such a nice person!

    I am sympathetic to the family of the man killed as well, who was actually an off-duty police officer, ensuring that Heather got the most assertive legal attention possible, but I really felt for her too, because she would have simply been devastated to the point of self-destruction by guilt for what had occurred. I doubt anyone will ever be able to punish her as thoroughly as she punishes herself…

    Honestly, I’m falling out of love with alcohol consumption overall for quite a few reasons…this is a good reason to just stay clear-headed when you are driving.

    Thanks Will.

  35. I was in a situation once that scared me so much I have never talked about it before. I was driving to work one morning and i was so tired that I fell asleep at the wheel. I ended up crossing 2 lanes of traffic and woke up driving on the grassy median. By the grace of the universe I didn’t hit anything or hurt anyone. I had not been drinking or under the influence of any substance but I was exhausted from not sleeping well.

    So whether you have been drinking, working late, taking otc or prescription meds, tired, etc. please take a minute to think before getting behind the wheel or letting someone you know get behind the wheel.

    Thank you for sharing your stories. Be safe everyone.

  36. I found this information about California sentencing for DUI Manslaughter:

    Court options at the time of sentencing for DUI Manslaughter in California

    If you are convicted of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, the court has discretion in determining your punishment depending on the circumstances of your case. The court has the following options at time of sentencing:

    The court can sentence you to one of two terms provided by law:

    Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated: up to one year in county jail
    Felony vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated: 16 months, 2 or 4 years in county jail

    Place you on probation and impose a sentence of up to one year in county jail
    Place you on probation with no jail time, but order you to do community service, a work release program and attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) classes
    Place you on formal probation and assign you a probation officer

    As others have pointed out, no amount of jail time for the driver will restore the 16-year-old girl to life. While driving while drunk is the cause of many accidents and deaths, it is not alone. “Distracted driving” also contributes to many accidents and deaths, and covers a wide range of activities while driving: talking/texting on a phone, lighting a cigaret, listening to the radio, etc. I think far too many people try to do too many things while driving. I’ve just recently started driving again after years of not having a car, and I’m totally amazed by what idiots some drivers are.

    Any time someone gets in a car, they should be prepared to drive responsibly, soberly, defensively, and without distractions.

    Thanks for being an Internet Dad, Wil. Perhaps someone will hear your advice because it came from you!

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