This has been a tragic weekend for the Sheriffs Office and our community at large. Worse it has been tragic for 6 families. I can not discuss the details of the case on a personal blog. However, I do want to discuss the lessons we can learn from this. I have attended two of the three memorials for the deceased teens and witnessed hundreds of teens in pain. Unfortunately my daughter is one of them. I haven't met a single person in Santa Fe yet who does not know one of the kids or the young 28 year old driver who has been arrested or an immediate family member personally. I have had a chance to talk to over half of the parents involved and all including the mother of the young man who was arrested are feeling the greatest pain imaginable. My wife and I pray for all those touched by this horrible tragedy and hope they will all find peace.
New Mexico has been battling D.W.I. for a long, long time now. As a state we have made huge strides. In 2008, there were 143 alcohol-involved fatalities in New Mexico, down 34 from 2007 and a huge drop from 221 in 2002. Since 2003, New Mexico has seen a 35 percent decline in drunken-driving related deaths and has implemented some of the toughest laws and most innovative programs in the country to stop drunken driving in New Mexico.
So why are our children still dying? What more can we do? As I looked at the teenagers mourning at the memorials one thing came to mind. How many of these kids will drink and drive? Statistics say over half will drink and drive at some time. Most people who drink and drive and get arrested say when taking surveys during mandatory treatment that they have driven while intoxicated up to 100 times before getting caught. Driving home after drinking is ingrained in the culture of New Mexicans. Not drinking and driving is something we will have to teach a whole new generation of New Mexicans so that it is considered a true moral and subconscious "you do not do this, type thing". Now we all have that little subconscious thing in the back of our head that says "you do not kill someone". Unfortunately for many that does not kick in where drinking and driving is concerned.
So here are a few hundred teens who have witnessed first hand and directly in their own lives just what the consequences are for drinking and driving. How many now will go out and fulfill the prophecy of the statistics that say over half of them will drink and drive? Will they go out and teach their children about the friends they lost on June 28, 2009 ? I hope so, I hope the memory of the four teens who lost their lives and the young man arrested for their deaths, will live on in the minds of these hundreds of teens mourning today. Not as a haunting memory of death, but as a reminder of life. What a life is worth and what is lost when you choose to drink and drive. I have sat down with my children and discussed just what I wanted them to get out of this tragedy. My family is not without sin and has been touched repeatedly over the years by drinking and driving. However, I still have hope, hope for my family and for yours. Talk to your kids about this tragedy and what can come out of it. Tell them that the way to honor the lives of these teens is by pledging to never, ever, ever, drink and drive.
My families prayers go out to all those touched by this tragedy.
Sheriff Greg Solano