By Marie BerbereaJuly 1, 2010
FORT SILL, Okla. -- The laughter and joking stopped as soon as a video showing mangled bodies from car accidents began to play. It was part of the Save a Life Tour meant to "shock" people out of a possibly deadly decision: drinking and driving.
The tour was set up inside Goldner Gym Monday for their first audience at Fort Sill, drill sergeants from 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery, E Battery.
The drill sergeants wore solemn faces as they watched the different real-life stories unfold and the gruesome footage of the car wrecks along with them. Friends and family members were the only ones left to grieve the drivers' decisions.
Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Ainoy Rasavongsy said the video's graphic images would definitely stop him from getting behind the wheel after drinking. But, for those who may have not been so moved, the Save A Life Tour continues to bring the message into the forefront for its audience. That's where Jeremiah Newson comes in. He has been personally affected by drunk driving and travels the country sharing his story.
"On Christmas Day when I was seven years old my father decided to drive drunk on the back roads of Newbrunswick, NJ. He was on his way home when he ended up swerving to miss a BMW and ran into a ditch. My father flew through that front windshield and wrapped his body around a tree. Now he's paralyzed for the rest of his life. The officer said he blew a point three. A point three! Do you guys realize that at a point three you're about to slip into a coma' At a point four you're legally dead."
Newson said it was a preventable life-altering mistake as his father was only two miles from their home and could have easily called his mother to come and pick him up. Instead it cost his family a brand new house they had just moved into and a whole lot more.
"That's a heck of a Christmas present. Could you imagine at seven years old hearing the man that you looked up to, the man that you wanted to be one day will never be the same again. He will never be able to pick you up, ever. He'll never be able to hold you when you have a nightmare. Just because he decided to do something reckless. But the thing that irritates me the most, is that my father was only gone for 30 minutes. Do you guys realize how much alcohol you have to consume in 30 minutes to be at a point three'" asked Newson.
Newson then led the drill sergeants to a drunk driving simulator to give them a sober view of how dangerous it can be to have a few drinks and hit the road. The simulator works just like a normal car except it has a split second delayed response to imitate drunk driving. Newson spouted out statistics as several of them tried not to crash with little success. He shared that 75 percent of drunk driving deaths happen when the driver puts all their focus in the center of the road in an effort not to swerve or get pulled over. Their tunnel vision causes them to miss things like signs, cars, people, objects, buildings and animals.
Rasavongsy was the first to try out the simulator and as hard as he focused, the split second delay made breaking and steering very difficult. He eventually crashed into a building. Newson handed him a fake ticket that listed the top three consequences of a DUI, if one is lucky enough to only be caught.
-- Suspension: Invalidates the license for days, weeks or years. Some states have mandatory license revocation for six months with the first offense. With the third it may be revoked for up to 10 years.
-- Imprisonment: Determined through a court trial. Average 72 hours for the first offense. One year for the third. Community service can sometimes serve as a substitute for jail time.
-- Fines: Vary from hundreds to thousands, depending on prior convictions.
When asked what the legal limit was the drill sergeants answered quickly.
"Point-zero-eight. It's remarkable how we know what the legal limit is but yet last year we had over 25,000 people die above that legal limit. 25,000. That's like taking a city in the United States and completely wiping it out," said Newson.
He posed more questions as he asked if so many people know that drinking and driving is so dangerous why there is an alcohol related crash every two minutes. To make matters worse, every 32 minutes someone dies from an alcohol related crash.
"Let's not be another statistic. Believe me, we've got bigger things in our lives to worry about. I respect you guys in the military tremendously because I know it takes a lot of courage to step up and fight for people who you don't even know. Basically civilians like me. But I just want to point out one good fact. If you guys choose to drink and drive, you're killing these civilians that you're fighting so hard to protect." said Newson.
With that Newson only had one last thing to say.
"Don't drink and drive. It's a stupid decision."
For more information about the Save A Life Tour visit www.savealifetour.com.