Eagle County Sheriff: Local law enforcement will be doing their part to keep roads safe during holidays (column) | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Sheriff: Local law enforcement will be doing their part to keep roads safe during holidays (column)

James van Beek
Valley Voices

As we all excitedly prepare for our annual holiday pilgrimages, we envision fun times with family and friends, and the making of happy memories; let's reflect on some recent headlines.

GREENVILLE, South Carolina — On Friday, Dec. 7, a 27-year-old drunk driver killed four young children. After many financial struggles, Jackie Brown was thrilled to finally move into a small mobile home in time for Christmas. The children were excited to have a Christmas tree and Brown was looking forward to providing a few modest presents from Santa. It was going to be a great year of new beginnings. Brown said they had started with nothing, but they had each other — so, they had everything.

"I'm just incomplete now without them," she said. "They were my everything — my heart, my blood, my breath, my motivation."

She has yet to go home. Her partner took the kids out for the evening and little did she know it would be the last time she saw them. On his drive home, he ran into a tree. He survived with a broken leg — pain numbed by the high level of alcohol in his body.

DENVER — On Wednesday, Dec. 5, a young woman in her 20s died on her way to the airport. Upon graduating from college, this young woman embarked on an 11-country adventure called "The World Race" to help those in need. Kelly Anne Broderick, on her way to catch a flight to Iceland, instead ended her adventures in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Her family's holiday memories, forever destroyed along with this precious young life.

Have you ever done something stupid and were shocked you lived through and grateful you weren't caught? When it involves alcohol and a motor vehicle, the deadly consequences are irrevocable.

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The tragic stories are endless and happen everywhere, including Eagle County. What's more heartbreaking is that they are totally preventable. They are the result of senseless bad decisions that could easily be avoided, and which also destroys the drunk driver's life.

One man recalled that horrific night, when he caused the death of six people because he was driving only 3 miles home, after "taking it easy" at the bar. In a published article, Robert Veeder states, "I have never forgotten the dark places that my addiction has taken me. I didn't even think I was drunk. I was tired that night. I took the highway because I knew it was less likely I'd be pulled over. What I didn't know was that there had already been an accident on that very highway that night. I wasn't speeding, I wasn't weaving, my van crested a hill and there was a crowd of people standing in front of me. I tried to stop, but I was too slow, too intoxicated, to react appropriately. What happened next became my own personal hell. I was charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. I spent most of my 30s in a state prison. That was over 15 years ago; I still think about it every day."

DoSomething.org, a global organization of 6 million young people dedicated to improving communities lists these facts about driving under the influence:

Despite myths and misconceptions, coffee, a cold shower or exercise will not make a person more sober, only time will.

On average, a drunk driver will drive 80 times under the influence before their first arrest.

Every 51 minutes in America, someone is killed in a drunken driving crash. That equates to 27 people every day.

In 2011, 9,878 people were victims of drunk drivers.

Fifty to 75 percent of the people who had their licenses revoked for a DUI, drive illegally without a license.

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teens, and roughly one-third involve alcohol or another substance.

Eagle County Law Enforcement will be doing their part to help keep the roads safe and assuring a safe and joyous holiday season, but we need you to do your part as well.

Please give yourself and our community the gift of happy memories — drink responsibly and don't get behind the wheel after drinking, even if you think you're sober. If you are driving, wrap yourself in your seatbelt, we want you around for many holidays to come.

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at james.vanbeek@eaglecounty.us.