All of the lawyers and staff members at Bey & Associates are dedicated to helping our local and nationwide communities build strong foundations that can enable us to take part in a brighter future. We decided to start a scholarship this year that would give us the ability to help college students forge that strong foundation. The first submission period for that scholarship, Fall 2017, just came to a close. We were truly humbled by the amount of applications we received– 137 total– as well as the exceptional high quality of every essay. All of the essays were outstanding. Choosing just one winner was difficult!
We’re pleased to announce we’ve chosen a winner.
Congratulations to Toniann Mendelzon of Columbia, Maryland!
Toniann will be joining Northwestern University’s Integrated Marketing Communications program as a graduate student.
This submission period’s essay topic was on what individual drivers can do to limit the amount of crashes that occur on our roads and highways. Toniann took a difficult topic and navigated it with ease, crafting a beautiful essay that encourages readers to look at the issue of impaired driving in a new way.
Here’s her winning essay:
Redefining the Accountability
Imagine a world in which over the course of one day, 28 families feel the sting and emotional trauma of losing a loved one. Imagine in this same world each day, those 28 families could have been spared the pain and loss they now face. Imagine that in this same world, those 28 deaths were caused by complete strangers who chose not to hold themselves accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, the world you’re now visualizing in your mind is a mirror image of the world we live in today. The reality of the matter is, every single day, 28 people die in the United States as a result of a motor vehicle crash involving an alcohol-impaired driver.
A piece that is often forgotten when looking into statistics regarding impaired driving is that each one of those 28 individuals had family members, friends and loved ones waiting for them to come home. Take, for example, my own experience with a drunk driving accident. 30 years ago, my parents became victims of an irresponsible, alcohol-impaired driver. They had been out on a routine errand, wearing their seatbelts, driving carefully and obeying the rules of the road, until in an instant, their lives changed. A drunk driver had careened into the side of my parents’ van, causing them to slide through an intersection and into a telephone pole. Both my mother and father had to be extracted from the crushed vehicle and rushed to the nearest hospital, while the impaired driver walked away unharmed.
All too often, this is the case; the victims endure the trauma while the impaired driver walks away unharmed. In turn, the victims become more than just the people in the car. The victims become the daughters, sons, mothers and fathers of the people in the car who never come home. In my case, I was lucky enough to have my parents return home to me. Sadly, I am not the norm in this scenario.
As a global community, people who truly understand the price paid for impaired driving must put forth the effort to spread awareness and educate those who choose not to educate themselves on the matter. Educational institutions can only go so far in teaching someone how to make a safe decision when getting behind the wheel in the presence of alcohol. It is up to us – the people who understand the dangers of drunk driving – to hold each other accountable for our actions and the actions of people around us. It has been said that “with knowledge comes great power, and with great power comes great responsibility.” The knowledge is right in front of us. The facts are thrown at us from first grade onto high school graduation, yet not everyone truly listens.
Let’s focus on the last part of the aforementioned phrase for a moment. “With great power comes great responsibility.” It is our responsibility, as a global community, to hold each other accountable for each individual’s own actions. I believe we can do this in three viable ways. The simplest of the three options would be to hold the person next to you accountable. If each person who chose to consume alcohol was held accountable for their actions by the person next to them, I firmly believe they would think twice before getting behind the wheel. It is one thing to disappoint oneself; to disappoint another is a harder request on oneself.
A second option is geared toward placing accountability on the host of the gathering. Say, for example, a group of friends gather for a party at one friend’s home. If the host of the party held themselves accountable for the actions of their guests, steps could be taken to reduce the risk of one of their guests getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. A simple request by the host to the guests along the lines of, “please only attend if you plan to have a safe ride home,” would spur each guest to think twice before drinking and driving. Far too often, people think they are only risking themselves when they make dangerous decisions. A request from the host of each alcohol-induced gathering could be the difference between one person’s choice drink and drive or find an alternative route home.
The third suggestion, and perhaps the most complex, would be for transportation companies, local authorities or local community organizations to offer judgement-free, cost free transportation services for people who have consumed too much alcohol to drive themselves home. My vision for this would be for companies to offer a text line or hotline which intoxicated individuals, or hosts for that matter, could text or call to arrange a free, judgement-free ride home. In the United States, the annual cost of alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes amounts to more than $44 billion. If we were to offset the cost of these free services with the amount of money saved each year by preventing alcohol-related crashes, I’m confident that communities around the country would see the benefits of their efforts.
A problem as large as this is not going to be solved in one day, one month or one year. If even one of the proposed solutions herein saved just one individual every day from an alcohol induced motor vehicle death, 365 fewer people would lose their lives each year; 365 fewer families would await their loved one’s return which would never come.
We have the knowledge needed to prevent drunk driving. We have the power to prevent drunk driving. What’s left for us now is to take the responsibility for it and truly hold each other, and ourselves, accountable for our actions.
For more information on the next scholarship period which will be for Spring 2018, please see our law firm’s scholarship page for updates within the next week. Congratulations again, Toniann! May all your dreams come true.