’Tis the season for holiday merriment, and for many of us that means overindulging in too much food ... and too much drink. Yet while the consequences of consuming too many calories can be relatively minor — a few extra hours at the gym can usually help keep the holiday pounds at bay — the repercussions of drinking too many alcoholic beverages can be far worse than a hangover for those who then get behind the wheel.
I was reminded of this sobering fact when news of a fatal accident involving two Dallas Cowboys players broke over the weekend. The driver, 24-year-old defensive tackle Josh Brent, was arrested on drunken driving — a charge that was upgraded to intoxication manslaughter after 25-year-old passenger Jerry Brown Jr., a teammate of Brent’s as well as one of his closest friends, died from injuries suffered in the crash.
It’s a senseless tragedy that will likely ruin several lives. Intoxication manslaughter is a second-degree felony which carries a possible sentence of two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. But regardless of the sentence he receives, the guilt over the death of the man Brent called his “very best friend” will probably haunt him until his dying day.
“I am devastated and filled with grief,” Brent said in a statement. “Filled with grief for the loss of my close friend and teammate, Jerry Brown. I am also grief-stricken for his family, friends and all who were blessed enough to have known him.
“I will live with this horrific and tragic loss every day for the rest of my life. My prayers are with his family, our teammates and his friends at this time.”
Brent and Brown, friends since their time as teammates at the University of Illinois, were so close that Brown was living with Brent, who was trying to help Brown break into the NFL. Brown had just scored a spot on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. He was also expecting his first child, a daughter.
Yet because of one bad decision, Brown will never realize his NFL dream, nor will he be able to see the birth of his baby or witness a single one of the many “firsts” that so many parents cherish.
Brown’s grandmother, Theresa Clark, told the Associated Press her grandson “lived for football. He loved it with all his heart.”
And of Brown’s relationship with Brent, she said, “I’m quite sure that Jerry thought the world of him and respected that young man.”
It’s heartbreaking to realize that two such bright futures were shattered in an instant, but sadly this type of tragedy isn’t an isolated incident. The fact that both were professional football players undoubtedly brought far more media attention, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, someone dies every 48 minutes in the United States in an accident involving an alcohol-impaired driver.
“In 2010, 10,228 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States,” the CDC states.
If you don’t want to become one of those sobering statistics, think ahead before heading out to those holiday parties. If you plan on drinking, find a designated driver, catch a ride home with a sober friend or take a taxi. Otherwise, that extra glass of Christmas cheer could cost you, or someone you love, very dearly.
Amy Gehrt may be reached at email@example.com.