Drinking and driving is dangerous, PMHS seniors are told

Published 5:03 pm Friday, March 2, 2007

Anyone who’s attended high school remembers warnings against drinking and driving and the scare tactics involved to prevent drinking and driving.

To prepare Picayune Memorial High School seniors for the upcoming prom and graduation seasons, Robert Laird, director of the Office of Healthy Schools for the Mississippi Department of Education, came to scare kids into being smart about drinking and driving.

One of the first questions he asked the seniors was how many of the students in attendance had a friend or family member die due to a drunk driving accident. A number of hands shot in the air, which Laird estimated to be about 20 percent.

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“That is a choice someone makes, not an accident,” Laird said.

When he was a younger man in his more reckless days, Laird admitted to driving under the influence and wrapping his car around a tree on the family farm. Though he was only 15 at the time he said he had about 12 beers. He said he never blamed the incident on peer pressure.

“No one held a gun to my head, I just thought it would be a fun thing to do,” Laird said.

A vehicle can be considered a deadly weapon, especially with a drunk driver behind the wheel, Laird said. To prove his point he said if someone tried to hit an officer of the law with a vehicle, that officer could lawfully defend himself.

“He could put more holes in you than Swiss cheese,” Laird said.

While alcohol is traditionally associated with the charge of Driving Under the Influence, Laird said drivers who are under the influence of other intoxicating substances such as prescription medications, over the counter medications, marijuana and other illicit drugs apply.

Contrary to a popular myth, the only thing that can cure intoxication is time, not coffee, Laird said. Even pouring a whole pot of coffee into an intoxicated person will not sober them up.

“What you have (then) is a wide awake drunk,” Laird said.

Laird said it takes an 180 pound person an hour to metabolize one once of alcohol and that is after the last drink has been ingested.

Students asked a number of other questions which Laird was happy to answer. One of the questions involved a designated driver with a car of drunk passengers. The student wanted to know, if such an incident took place, would the intoxicated passengers be in trouble. Laird said even though the passengers were not driving they could be arrested for public drunk, no matter where the accident took place.

Each year about 20 drunk driving accidents take place around prom and graduation state wide. From those accidents there are an average of six deaths, Laird said.