It was broad daylight. As she rounded the corner, she turned and smiled at us – that was the last time I ever saw her alive. Less than a minute later, while stopped at a red light, she was struck from behind by a drunk driver and thrown across the intersection.

Sometimes the sound of the metal crushing still wakes me up at night. I watched them pull her from the car: so beautiful, so young, so much taken away in an instant.

I’ve kept my mouth shut for too long. Too many times I’ve overheard some of my own friends say things like, “Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have driven home from the bars last night, but at least I didn’t get caught.”

Statistics from the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimate that approximately 2.1 million people in the college age demographic admit to driving under the influence each year.

Yeah, sure we’ve heard it all before, but why then are more than 2 million of us still choosing to get behind the wheel after drinking?

It isn’t about not getting caught, because even if you don’t, you still risk your own life and the lives of others.

MADD also found that in 2006 approximately 17,602 individuals were killed in alcohol-related accidents. This, on average, accounts for one death every 30 minutes.

There are many alternatives to drunk driving, especially in a city like San Luis Obispo. Arranging a ride ahead of time, calling a friend, shelling out for a cab or even walking home are all simple options.

BBC News had a special that exposed common excuses drunk drivers present to justify driving. These include statements such as, “I’ve only had a couple,” “I’ve had a big meal” and, my personal favorite, “I won’t get stopped.”

Breaking it down, it seems that many people choose to drink and drive because of three factors: they don’t recognize their own limits (understanding what it means to be under 0.08), they ignore how alcohol affects their body and they exhibit the invincibility complex.

No matter what the excuse or how many times you’ve gotten away with it in the past, it only takes one time to change your whole life or destroy someone else’s.

At the time of her death, my friend was thinking about prom, graduation and making it to the finals in track, but someone who made a very poor choice obliterated her entire future.

Life is about choices and the sad reality is that innocent people sometimes have to suffer the consequences for others’ irresponsibility.

So next time you’re under the influence and debating whether you should drive home, please consider whose son, daughter, brother, sister or friend you could be putting at risk, and put your keys down.

Be responsible. Driving under the influence isn’t worth risking a life, so please show a little respect. It may not erase the past, but it will definitely protect the future.

Coral Snyder is a journalism senior and a Mustang Daily columnist.

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