Before you drink and drive, consider these stories
Hopefully, none of us will ever have the vaguest idea how Larry Mahoney felt when he awoke on May 15, 1988. He would have been sick with a hangover. The night before, his blood alcohol concentration was .24 percent. He was behind bars and had been free the previous day.
Incarcerated and sick. But, how ill did he feel when he realized he had killed 27 people?
Some of us might recall Mahoney’s name. He was behind the wheel of the pickup that collided head-on with a bus while traveling the wrong way down Interstate 71 in Kentucky on May 14, 1988. Mahoney was the man responsible for the Carrollton Bus Crash, the worst alcohol-related traffic crash in U.S. history.
Harrison County alcohol and drug offenders were reacquainted with Mahoney’s story and others on Dec. 17. About 50 of them sat in the audience of the Superior Court Room at the Harrison County Justice Center, many stone-faced, as county probation officer Diane Harrison turned the program, known as a “Victim Impact Panel,” over to the victims.
By the end of the evening, most of the offenders would be in tears and, at least for the evening, changed.
Indiana State Police Trooper Jim Bube lost his grandmother, Irene, to a drunk driver before he was born. She was on foot when she was struck by a drunk driver. Bube never got to meet her.
Knowing there had been an accident on his street, Irene’s youngest son rode his bicycle to the site to see if he could help. The son found his mother lying in a ditch, soaked with rain and unrecognizable, her head ruined by the impact.
Mark, 43, is a recovering alcoholic. On Jan. 5, he will celebrate four years of sobriety. Alcoholism cost Mark his family, home and automobiles. Mark has been on and off probation since he was 16. Mark is out of probation now and attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every night.
The former Dottie Pearman lost her husband, John, in the Carrollton Bus Crash. John Pearman was driving the bus at the time of the collision. His 13-year-old daughter, Christy, was seated in the back, the only way out after the crash. Christy sat in the bus and called for her daddy before escaping with burns over 60 percent of her body.
Lee Williams lost everything but his “salvation.”
Lee’s father had died in Korea. His mother had been taken by cancer about six months earlier. When his two daughters, Kristen, 14, and Robin, 10, were killed in the Carrollton crash, he couldn’t even turn to his wife for help with his grief. Joy was a chaperone on the bus, and she was lost, too.
The weeks of the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays are historically two of the deadliest for impaired driving fatalities. AAA expects more than 46 million Americans to travel by automobile, and the average 45 people who die each day as a result of drinking and driving will surely increase during the holiday season.
Jim Bube’s grandmother was killed in 1951. “Has anything really changed? The answer is no,” he said. After years of gradual improvement, alcohol related fatalities are again on the rise.
It doesn’t have to be this way.