Fatal drunk driving accidents over the past week including the tragic death of a Dallas Cowboy’s practice player have refocused the media’s attention on the dangers of drinking and driving. Drunk driving is a serious societal problem that touches all of us. This past week drunk driving led to the deaths of a promising football player and a Grand Prairie bicyclist. Several high-profile DFW residents are facing the end of their professional careers as the result of recent accidents.
Lancaster Mayor Marcus Knight’s political career may be cut short after the public found out about his November 15 DUI arrest. Lancaster residents met yesterday at a City Council meeting to ask the mayor to resign. Mayor Knight was pulled over last month in Grapevine while he was driving on Highway 26 at nearly half-past one in the morning. His blood alcohol level was at least .15. Residents spoke of losing confidence and trust in the mayor.
The WFAA reported one resident coming forward and asking, “How can somebody who is supposed to make decisions for the city, how can he be trusted to make decisions for everybody else with that careless act?” The mayor no doubt knew about the risks of drunk driving, and yet he was unable to stop himself. One of the recent challenges in preventing drunk driving is the difference between recognizing that drinking and driving is unacceptable and actually altering behavior. That key difference is how many public figures have become offenders even after openly decrying driving while under the influence.
On Saturday December 01, Major Paul Henderson who is not only a veteran Fort Worth police officer, but was the actual Chief of Staff for the whole department, was arrested for driving while intoxicated in Parker County. Henderson was demoted as a result of the arrest. Ironically, Henderson was vehement about officers not drinking and driving while off-duty. In 2010 he said in no uncertain terms, “We are absolutely fed up with dealing with this off-duty behavior.”
The police are battling drunk drivers on two fronts. In addition to the internal problems with off-duty officers abusing alcohol, the police face agitated, intoxicated drivers out on the roads. Last weekend Manuel Cardona, age 30, crashed his Hummer into a Dallas police car after driving through the intersection of Lombardy Lane Finnell Street without stopping. Luckily, the police were not seriously harmed. They arrested Cardona for driving while intoxicated and found cocaine in the driver’s pocket. When intoxicated drivers are behind the wheel of a truck or SUV the damage can be particularly severe. It’s amazing the police didn’t suffer more serious injuries as a result of the wreck.
A driver on Central last weekend was not as fortunate. The victim’s vehicle was so damaged by a wrong-way wreck on 75 that the news media could not identify what type of car it was. The accident occurred early Sunday morning near the Northwest Highway exit. An SUV was going the wrong-way down the highway. The driver has already been charged with driving while intoxicated. Not much is known about the driver who was going the right way down the highway other than the severe property damage to the vehicle. Hopefully he or she is recovering from the incident.
Drunk driving accidents have become sadly common and not just late at night on the weekends but even on the weekdays during busy hours. 53-year-old Calvin Washington was riding his bike in Grand Prairie at 7:30 pm on Tuesday November 27 when he was hit by intoxicated 60-year-old Matthew Bonnette. Washington died of his injuries this past Saturday morning at John Peter Smith Hospital. Bonnette’s charges have been bumped up from intoxication assault to intoxication manslaughter. You may not have heard about Washington’s case since the media has been covering the death of Cowboy practice player Jerry Brown non-stop since the accident over the weekend.
Brown’s tragic death occurred early Saturday morning when nose tackle Josh Brent hit a curb on the service road of East State Highway 114 and lost control over the vehicle. The car flipped over onto the middle of the service road. Brown, age 25, was found unresponsive at the accident and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Brent failed the sobriety test and was arrested by police after having blood drawn.
Brown was expecting a daughter in a few months and was looking forward to a promising career as well. He had only recently joined the practice team and was staying with his best friend Brent. The two met in college and had remained close since then. Brown’s father told WFAA that he had forgiven Brent and that it was his belief that his son would not have wanted Brent to serve time as a result of the accident. Despite the Brown family’s wishes, Brent could be facing prison time for the accident.
Former Cowboy player Dwayne Goodrich has resurfaced to speak about his own experiences as an NFL football player whose reckless driving lead to the deaths of others. Goodrich was in a hit-and-run accident where two people were killed and one was injured in 2003. The former cornerback served six years in prison. He encouraged Brent to pray and find a strong support network.
Whether it’s a mayor, an NFL football player, a police officer or a neighbor who is drunk by seven-thirty on a weeknight – drunk driving is a serious problem in this country and it is not going away. It touches every part of society, and when it comes both to prevention and rehabilitation we are failing as a community. A drunk or intoxicated driver almost never intends to harm anyone else, but a simple error like getting behind the wheel after drinking can turn into a huge life-altering, even life-ending, mistake. None of these men’s lives will be the same after this past weekend’s events. The news organizations are doing the right thing by giving these incidents a lot of coverage.
Remember to take precautions this holiday season and make certain than neither you nor any of your loved ones drive while intoxicated. Be careful out on the roads and be on the lookout for intoxicated drivers who may be changing lanes erratically or traveling the wrong-way.