I am fortunate that, on occasion, I have the opportunity to attend to canine police officers. They are remarkable creatures. Last week, a state trooper presented his companion to me for treatment. While chatting at the end of the dog’s hospitalization, the trooper mentioned that he was on his way to a high school where he was involved in a program to bring direct and graphic awareness of the devastating consequences of drinking and driving to students.
He then shared a terrible statistic: every 15 minutes, someone is killed due to impaired driving. I told him what my response is when I suspect someone of driving under the influence and he thanked me. “We can’t be everywhere all the time,” he told me.
I have long been and continue to be, a proud snitch. I consider myself to be part of a civil guard and my position has not been popular with all of those around me. I have been accused of being “uptight” with regards to strangers and of not “protecting” people I know when I chose to alert law enforcement. My questions have always been: “Uptight about a dangerous activity?” and “Protecting whom, how and from what?”
If an individual were brandishing a firearm in public, you would expect law enforcement to be notified. After all, a threat to public safety should be brought immediately to the attention of the police. It is the same with an impaired driver operating a motor vehicle. There should be no less sense of urgency to report someone who could potentially kill himself and/or others by driving.
“Protecting” drunk driving acquaintances or friends by not turning them into police is similarly foolish and criminal. Is it important to protect her or him so that they can kill themselves – or worse – an innocent victim? A fundamental part of participating in a community is the responsibility of doing one’s best to ensure the common good and safety. It is in no one’s interest to ignore car keys in the hands of a drunk driver.
Unfortunately, too often those hands are Latino. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we have the second highest rate of drunk or impaired driving incidents in the U.S. We are also complicit in the crime! Latinos are more likely, than members of other groups, to ride in vehicles operated by impaired drivers.
The factors contributing to this tragic distinction are many and must be addressed in a variety of ways to affect change. However, there is always one thing that any individual can do that may save lives: if the impaired driver will not succumb to reason, call the police and report the license plate. You may lose a friend, but a family may get to keep its father or mother or child.
This holiday season, as the roads become more dangerous, choose a designated driver, enjoy las fiestas, your good health and a safe family. But hey, if you see a tragedy in the making, pasa el chisme!