Just over a week ago, early in the morning of Saturday, May 16th, a truck and a car crashed on a San Diego freeway. The driver and passenger of the car, two young women, were killed instantly. They were medical students at UC San Diego, and friends of my daughter. That’s how I come to be writing about this today.
There were five people in the car altogether. Two died, one was seriously injured, two less so. They’d all just received their results from the test known as Step 1, which is, as you might guess, the first step towards becoming doctors. They were coming home from a celebratory party. Madison Elizabeth Cornwell was the designated driver. That’s important.
The driver of the other vehicle, a truck, survived. He was and still is a 21-year old Marine on active duty in the San Diego area. He was drunk. So drunk, in fact, that he was driving the wrong way down the freeway. Headlights off, hazard lights on.
Madison, and the young woman in the passenger seat behind her, Annie Li Baldock, were killed on impact.
In honor of those we have lost, here is a video in which Madison’s younger sister and brother speak out.
I admit that when I was going through the end of my marriage, one night I drove home after 2 martinis. Big martinis. I wasn’t drunk enough to drive the wrong way on a freeway, but I shouldn’t have been in the car. I’ve felt badly about it ever since.
You may already be more responsible than I. And you may have, as I did, stressed to your children from the time they were little that they should never get into a car with a driver who is under the influence. My best friend and I used to say, “If anyone ever wants you to get into an automobile unsafely, without a seat belt or when someone’s been drinking, call us at any time and we will come get you.”
But there’s more we can do. We can adopt the Scandinavian commitment to and social acceptance of designated drivers. Even the 6’6″ guys who like to drive fast cars are on board. In Sweden, for example, every vehicle at every party has a corresponding non-drinking driver. There’s no cowboy prize awarded to bravado, no myth around, “Dude!”
We deserve a society in which we’d rather take away car keys, thus embarrassing our friends and ourselves, than let anyone ever drive the wrong way down a freeway into the end of two young lives.
Have a responsible weekend. We’re none of us perfect, but we can try. I am vowing on the tears that fall, as I watch and remember that video, to do better.