A father smiles down at his son as they walk hand-in-hand down the street.
On a nice Sunday afternoon, when daddy could be inside watching football, he decides to take a walk with his son.
Everything is quiet.
Everything is calm – until it is not.
“The road is a dangerous place,” freshman John Malik said. “You have to practice safe driving where ever you go, or someone is going to get hurt.”
Five-year old Jayden Chad Stokes and his father, Richard Stokes, were walking along the 600 block of East Montgomery Street in Henderson in late January, when they were hit head-on by a suspected impaired driver.
Vincent Gregory of Henderson, 47, was driving a 1998 GMC truck when he lost control, hit a telephone pole, collided with the father and son, and then came to rest against a tree.
“[People] are just not thinking clearly when they are drunk,” senior Vince Camasura said. “They think that there is a one in a million chance of them actually hitting someone.”
The father suffered injuries, but little Jayden was not so lucky. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“It makes me mad to hear stories like Jayden’s,” Malik said. “[He] and his father didn’t do anything to deserve this.”
Students at NHS are heartbroken by this tragic story, and many have several responses to the issue of drunk driving.
“It is absolutely stupid and careless of people to drink and drive because, not only are they endangering themselves, but they are also endangering other people,” Camasura said.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, every day 27 people die as a result of drunk driving. In 2011, 10,839 people were killed in drunk driving crashes – one every 50 minutes.
“Teens and adults don’t think the effects of drinking and driving are real until they actually experience them,” sophomore Jesus Ayala said. “It is [unfair] to other people that are actually being safe drivers because they are the ones that suffer the tragic consequences, not the drunk drivers themselves.”
Sadly, many teens today still choose to get behind the wheels of cars when they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. As a result, innocent people, families, and even little children, like Jayden, suffer.
“[Because] of the extremely negative effects of alcohol on a developing teenage brain, alcohol is never beneficial,” Spanish teacher Collin Brown said.
“Alcohol doesn’t do anything good for you [especially when you] mix it with driving. Teenagers have the worst record with driving anyways, so tossing alcohol in is just asking for trouble.”
Sometimes, it is even up to friends to step in and take control of a potentially fatal situation.
“If I had a friend [who considered driving drunk], I would take away their keys, call a taxi, or get someone else to drive them home,” Ayala said. “I would refuse to let them get in that car.”
Brown has experienced first hand the dangers of drinking and driving.
“The day that I got my license, a friend and I were going to go to the Durham Bulls game,” Brown said. “We were pulling down my parents’ street, turning left and I heard some tires screeching. I woke up and that’s all I remember.”
“As it turned out, a drunk driver was flying down the street behind me thinking I was turning right,” he said. “He t-boned my side of the car and threw me on top of my friend. We careened down a little hill and hit a tree. Luckily, neither of us was seriously hurt.”
Brown was lucky that he and his friend escaped the crash with their lives, but what becomes of the teenagers who choose to drive while distracted or drunk?
Gregory is now being charged with felony death by motor vehicle, driving while impaired, and driving with a revoked license.
“Think before you decide to drink and drive,” freshman Randall Crowder said. “If not, you may end up in jail for the rest of your life.”
Keep the Drive is a program sponsored by Allstate dedicated to promoting safe driving. It is a website led by teens all across the country who care about the safety of others and who have dedicated their time and effort to save the lives of their friends and family.
To find out how you can help make a difference visit www.KeeptheDrive.com.