Tragedy highlights need for action regarding impaired driving

  • Thursday, September 13, 2018 11:26am
  • Opinion

The Beachcomber this week includes news regarding what is both a deeply personal tragedy for some islanders and an all-too-common occurrence across the country.

Vashon resident and professional skateboarder Cory Kennedy was sentenced to four years in jail last week, following the crash last summer that killed skateboarder and videographer Preston Maigetter and injured another passenger. Kennedy, at the wheel at the time of the crash on Aug. 30, 2017, had a blood alcohol level of .11, higher than the state’s legal limit of .08.

The news footage from the sentencing hearing is heartbreaking on all sides, including when Maigetter’s widow, Anna Cobb, addressed the court and spoke tearfully about their young sons — but also told Kennedy she loves him. In an interview with The Beachcomber last week, she said she hopes Kennedy leaves prison and returns as the positive person he was in this community.

We hope so too. When he was arrested, many youth in the island’s skateboard community, who know Kennedy, were shaken. But his reach — and Maigetter’s — spread far beyond Vashon. In fact, a quick Google search of Cory Kennedy’s sentencing hints at just how far that reach is, from People magazine to news stories written in Spanish and German. It is easy to see that given his high profile, when Kennedy gets out of jail, as early as April 2021, he will be singularly suited to make a difference regarding impaired driving, should he choose to follow that path quietly or in a more public way.

But even without him speaking directly about this tragedy, the lessons from Maigetter’s death and Kennedy’s imprisonment are clear now. They are lessons we all know: Don’t drink and drive. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. Choose a designated driver.

On Vashon, impaired driving tragedies feel far too common. Since December 2014, four people have been killed in alcohol-related crashes — a high number for an island the size of Vashon, but just a tiny fraction of the impaired-driving deaths across the nation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mothers Against Drunk Driving provide sobering statistics:

• One person dies every 50 minutes in crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver — 29 people in the United States each day.

• 800 people are injured in a drunk driving crash every day.

• In 2016, 9 percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes during the day were drunk, compared to 30 percent at night.

• On average, two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime.

That last fact bears repeating: Two in three people will be involved in a drunk driving crash in their lifetime. It does not have to be that way.

We have the power now, in our small community, to change some of our own statistics and honor the Maigetter and Kennedy families amid their sadness and grief. We can allow this tragedy to be a turning point. The choice is ours, and action is overdue.

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