Our lives revolve around making decisions. Each day we have a set of choices in front of us and our decisions will impact our paths in life. It sounds like a rather simple axiom yet it is really complex. How do we learn how to make good decisions? If your answer included parents, relatives, friends, teachers, coaches and men and women of faith, you are probably right. We really do learn a lot from the list of people that I just mentioned.
It is true that while we are young there are many people who influence us by what they say and how they say it. When I was young, my mom would tell me not to touch the hot stove with my hand because I would get burned. After receiving the information from my mom I had to decide whether I would use the information to my benefit. The other alternative was not to use it and have a hard head about it. If that was the case, I would have to deal with the negative consequences—namely, getting my hand burned.
Growing older, I continued to receive the instructions about various matters and the consequences if I didn’t follow the advice. My dad told me when driving to always keep both hands on the steering wheel. If I didn’t, the chances of me having an accident would increase dramatically. So of course when I drive both of my hands are on the steering wheel.
As we age our bad decisions and\or poor choices have more severe and sometimes deadly consequences. Some years ago now, I wrote a piece about the ills of texting while driving. At that time there were few laws regarding texting and driving. During this time you simply did what you wanted to do with no legal repercussions. If you fast forward to today, states are much more aggressive about this matter. We have the instructions that say do not text while driving yet we are doing it in record numbers. The consequences are sometimes fatal yet we don’t believe that we can become a statistic. Some of us know relatives and friends who have been injured seriously because they didn’t want to follow the advice and the instructions.
Drinking and driving is a topic that we have received a lot of instructions and counsel about yet we have not done a very good job of adhering to the advice. Do you remember the driver’s education classes? I am an old school guy yet this problem is as acute today as it has ever been. There are many national organizations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and AAA (American Automobile Association) that continue to provide advice yet we don’t follow it. Why? I will let you ponder the answer to that question.
Recently in Dallas, Texas, a professional football player with the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Brown, was killed because his teammate, Josh Brent, was driving while intoxicated. Now two families will have their lives altered forever. It is a tragic set of circumstances that should give us pause as we reflect on how to prevent something like this from happening again.
I am a firm believer in the proposition that we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. We have a serious problem on our hands and we have to fix it. All of us, I believe, have a role to play. Companies that produce alcohol make drinking look glamorous. At the end of alcohol commercials they will say “Please Drink Responsibly.” After you have watched so much visual pizzazz, are you really paying any attention to “Please Drink Responsibly”? I would say no! There must be a way for these companies to get a better message out about the dangers of drinking and driving. This could be done through increased alcohol education programs.
College athletic programs must implement stronger anti-drinking programs for their student athletes. Colleges must strengthen their stance about the hazards of alcohol consumption. Programs and activities regarding drinking and driving should begin as early as elementary school. Why? Because children are impressionable and they watch these advertisements and think that it is cool to drink. Schools have to counter this glamour with some real life talk and examples. It really is not cool to go out and get drunk on your prom night or after you graduate from high school. Fortunately many high schools and civic organizations are sponsoring alternative programs and activities.
Professional sports teams must engage pro athletes in a deeper way about the negative effects of alcohol consumption. Mandatory sessions throughout the year should be started. Bars and taverns should be on the lookout for people who have reached their “limit.” As individuals, we have to understand that everything that has a bow around it and a seal isn’t necessarily good for us.
Let us hope that through the pain of what happened to Jerry Brown that we can improve our decision-making and make better choices. It will require us to have more discipline and better communication because without them the consequences may just become deadly.
Dr. James B. Ewers Jr. is vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Edward Waters College.