This past weekend, Robert Lujan, 57 according to some reports, was working road construction on West Sahara at 9:30 in the morning when he was struck by 54-year-old Rafael Mendez-Soto, a man who claimed he was out drinking at a bar in North Las Vegas (about seven or eight beers, he reportedly said, over the course of about seven hours) and
fled the crash scene on foot without showing any regard for the person he hit.
Right now, the ages of the men, what bar the driver was drinking at, or even the exact time that the “accident” occurred are not that important. What is important is that some man who knew he was consuming alcohol over a period of many hours, who went to a bar for that very purpose, who drove himself there and expected to drive himself home after consuming all the alcohol he was inclined to consume, knowingly then got into his vehicle, put his keys in the
ignition, turned the engine on, and — with full knowledge that he had been drinking — proceeded to drive himself home as planned. If it was not his plan to drive himself home after a long period of drinking, he would have brought along a designated driver; called someone who could be counted on to be sober and available; given his keys to the bartender or someone else for safe-keeping, no matter how much he might plead to get them back; or called a taxi. He could even have called the police, if he had no money for a taxi, and asked them what he should do to get home. Anything would have been better than driving drunk.
Hmmm. That gave me an idea. I would imagine that I’m not the first or only person to come up with this idea, but considering the number of drunk-driving incidents involving people who were out drinking at a bar and then decided to drive themselves home—a decision that has often led to sorrow and anguish and misery for everyone involved in
the resultant drunk-driving “accident”—it seems all those who show up for a night (or day) of drinking (and maybe even all those who simply order their second drink) need to be required to turn over their car keys to the bartender in order to get that second drink. It could be quite simply a loving act of kindness on the bartender’s (or bar-owner’s) part, as he or she tells the patron that he/she is willing to lose customers while making an effort to save lives. Each customer would be given a redemption ticket for his keys, on which every new drink would be noted. When the patron was ready to go home, the bartender would note that the customer had, say, eight drinks over the course of seven hours and was in no condition to drive, and would then tell the patron what his options are. If none of the options could be implemented, the bartender could either have a pre-arranged plan with the local police, or invite the patron to sleep it off in the back room, or in whatever pre-arranged place the bartender could have prepared for such a contingency. If there were a cost involved in such a designated place of “sleeping it off,” the patron would be billed for it, probably happily accepting a bill for $50 or so rather than learning that he had just killed someone and/or was in jail facing charges that would haunt him for the rest of his life—to say nothing of all the pain and suffering that would follow his deed into the lives of those his could-have-been-victim would have left behind.
Sure, there are those who would say (maybe even rightfully so) that we have enough intervention into our lives and we need to be free to make our own drinking and driving decisions. I would like to say that I agree with that argument, but unfortunately, no matter how many times a drinking-and-driving accident happens, someone with a glass in his hand believes it will never happen to him.
Maybe bartenders (or bar-owners) might never go for restraining their customers in any way. I totally get that. But if they ever took a survey of their patrons to see which they would prefer—the above-mentioned drink-but-turn-in-your-keys policy, or the take-a-chance-on-killing-
I hope that if someone who opted to drive himself home in an inebriated condition but then had a thank-goodness change of mind and pulled over somewhere, would at least be granted some credit for doing that, even if he had to suffer the consequences for getting behind the wheel in the first place. Most of all, I hope that everyone who likes to drink anywhere other than at home, and who does not have a designated driver or a plan to take a taxi instead of their own
vehicle when it comes time to depart, read all the articles they can find about the devastation that drunk drivers leave in their wake.
They should be obligated to watch drunk-driver videos and listen to the heart-wrenching statements made by the newly-widowed wives or by the friends who let them drive in that condition, and learn how the lives of families, especially those with children, have been changed by the very fact that a drunk driver has killed their father or
brother or mother or self.
Is there really any acceptable excuse for driving drunk?
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at email@example.com.