2019 Scholarship Contest Winners

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The attorneys and staff at Becker Law Office would like to congratulate all of the students who applied to our annual scholarship contest. We received many compelling essays and while we wish we could award every student who applied we had to narrow our selection to just three winners. Please join us in congratulating our winners and read their essays listed below!

1st place – $2500
Kaitlyn Parker

It is a dark, clear night illuminated only by the red and blue flashes of emergency vehicles. Looking on, multiple vehicles have collided, the steel metal crushed and wrinkled like paper. Glass and automobile parts cover the intersection. Emergency responders are rushing about, but off to the side quietly stands a family huddled together wearing worried expressions. It was a normal peaceful night, until they received the call that no one ever wants to receive. This is the scene of an accident caused by a driver under the influence of alcohol. Some would say that a person who survives an incident caused by a drunk driver is lucky. However, the survivor’s good fortune for surviving depends on the extent of the injuries suffered. Unfortunately, many do not survive. When asked the question how a teenager, adult, or elderly individual would be impacted from a drunk driving auto accident, the answer is clear. No matter the age of the person involved, the physical, psychological, and emotional injuries are often unsurmountable. Due to someone else’s irresponsibility and bad decision, hurt and pain has now been inflicted upon others and their lives are altered forever.

It is devastating when a human is injured, or a life is taken unfairly. However, when they are a teenager with a lifetime of potential ahead of them it is harder to comprehend. A teenager might play sports, but their last-minute touchdown, buzzer-beating shot, or walk-off grand slam may never be achieved due to injuries. A teenager’s dream of attending college may be altered due to experiences of a traumatic brain injury, seizures, long-term or permanent impairment of physical and cognitive abilities, behavioral and emotional issues, paralysis, or comas. Their dream of being a normal college student turned into an unreachable nightmare within seconds. Their future is transformed. Their confidence, emotions, school and social life scarred. Parents might find it necessary to take care of their teenager’s physical needs for a lifetime or find a facility to do so. My parents’ friends have personally experienced this. It has brought heartache and hardship, it changed the entire family and the way they live. The money they have paid in healthcare is unbearable. Insurance premiums go up no matter what the age. But for a teenager it might mean not being able to drive again until they can afford to pay the increased rates along with a new form of transportation.

As an adult, your responsibilities might include a family, a job, and a home. These things rely on you to function properly. The mundane chores of doing dishes, washing clothes, or cooking are simply routines until you physically cannot due to injuries. Adults may lose their sense of belonging and purpose when they are in an accident. They can’t go outside and play tag with their children if they have knee surgery. They can’t perform well at work because every time they hear a siren pass, they experience an anxiety attack due to post-traumatic stress disorder. If they are unable to work, their financial stability could be at a risk, especially due to medical bills. Besides the physical side effects, adults are apt to experience depression or stress due to not being able to fulfill adult responsibilities.

Elderly individuals are extremely vulnerable due to their already weakened physical state, being at a higher risk of having serious injuries. An elderly’s recovery time is usually longer, more difficult, and they can be left physically impaired for the remainder of their life. Older people do not drive as often due to their age and lack of confidence. If they are involved in a drunk driving accident, they may stop driving completely, thus relying on family members for assistance with routine grocery shopping or going places. This could make them feel as if their personal identity has been taken away. As my great-grandparents grow older, they feel as if their identity is being taken away as they are advised not to drive.

Being involved in a drunk driving accident affects each age group in different ways. They have many similarities and are equally at risk of injury or death. Drunk driving can ruin the lives of those directly involved in the crash and the intoxicated driver. The physical and mental tolls of a drunk driving accident are damaging. However, educating all ages on the dangers and effects drinking and driving can have on an individual can not only help make a difference in society, but make roads safer for all who travel.

2nd place – $1500
William Propst

The sun was setting as the 1999 Jetta TDI drove west towards home. The seatbelt was tight against her swollen belly and she caught the gaze of her admiring 2-year-old son in the rear-view mirror. As the vehicle neared an intersection, the vehicle had just gotten up to speed. Traveling at 44 mph, just under the posted 45. The words of her mother ringing through her head. The advice of her drivers ed teacher. Her own mother. Spoken 13 years prior. Her mother had always told her to hover her right foot over the brake whenever driving through an intersection. Just. In. Case. On this occasion, those words would be lifesaving. At that moment, a 2003 Silverado decided to turn left into the oncoming family filled Jetta. The driver was a 71-year-old retired military captain. He was anxious to get to the next bar on his afternoon whiskey tour. 5:15pm on a Sunday. The impact was very brief and minimized by my mother’s mother’s voice telling her to hover her foot over the brake. I was the admiring 2-year-old in the back seat. We, myself and my in-utero baby sister, were completely unharmed. You would not have known that by the sheer panic in my mother’s face. She pulled me from my car seat, air bag residue in her hair, one hand on her belly and surveyed the damage to my person. None. Prayers answered. Until the belligerent drunk came forth from his giant metal shelter. Slurring his words, he got in my mother’s face. Cursing at her for the tiny shattered passenger side headlight. Witnesses piled out of their cars and stood by my mother’s side, between her and the drunken stranger. While I do not have any memories of this event, I still feel the panic in my mom’s voice whenever she tells me to just call her. No questions asked. “Please do not get in the car with anyone who has been drinking and please do not drive if you’ve had even one drink. I think all my friend’s parents say this. Our teachers say this. My mom absolutely means this.

Every day, about 800 people are injured by an alcohol-impaired driver according to the 2017 statistics. About 1/3 of all vehicle-related fatalities are the result of drunk driving. While any number of vehicle-related deaths is terrible, the striking thing about that number is that 30% of those deaths could be completely avoided. The consequences of drunk driving, beyond death or serious injury, are not bounded by generation or age. Teen drivers as well as adults and the elderly, are affected by this kind of accident very similarly. As a victim, we become super aware and almost paranoid. If convicted, we lose our independence and consequently our means for connection and community. If we choose to drink and drive and are fortunate enough to just get into a minor accident or even survive a major accident, the consequences of that are life changing. Our transportation is our independence and our independence gets us to soccer practice or work or bridge club. Piling onto the shame is loneliness.

While the occurrences of alcohol-related vehicle fatalities are decreasing, even one is too many. These are senseless deaths. Completely avoidable. Technology could be a major player in this decline. From uber to self-driving cars, we are steadily providing options in place of driving while impaired. There is always a better option. Call your mom and remember to hover through all intersections.

3rd place – $1000
Rachel Gay

Father’s Day: A day of celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds and the influence of father in society. Father’s Day, 2015: In the early morning of June 21, 2015 a 21 year old woman was driving on the interstate. This young woman was attending college, working and had dreams of a bright future. On this same morning, a 23 year old man had left his home heading to work. He also had dreams of a bright future. Unfortunately, their paths met as a result of a drunk driving accident. Each of their lives were forever changed. Family and friends felt the impact of someone’s decision to drink and then get behind the wheel. The young woman, who had been drinking, hit and killed the young man while driving the wrong way on the interstate. The damage to both vehicles was unbelievable, but that was just a small impact of drunk driving. The young man that lost his life was not only a son, he was also a father. His daughter, who was five when this happened will forever feel the impact of the accident. The young woman suffered two broken arms and a broken leg. Not only did she suffer physical effects, she suffered psychologically and emotionally. She experienced nightmares and flashbacks almost nightly. She faced several charges; murder, DUI, and wanton endangerment. For two years, both families had to deal with many issues before a verdict was decided in her case. Her decision to drive drunk that morning affected so many more people than just her and the young man. A child, parents, grandparents, family and friends of both the driver and the victim have all experienced some sort of pain and stress. My sister worked with this young lady and she and other co-workers were very saddened and emotional over this event. Their hearts went out to both families. The impact of a major auto accident caused by a drunk driver is massive. It doesn’t matter if the driver is a teen, adult or elderly. These accidents affect everyone involved and their families in a number of ways: physically, psychologically, emotionally and financially. The financial cost of vehicle accidents caused by drunk drivers is estimated to be around 50 billion dollars. For those who survive a drunk driving accident, they may find there are large medical bills to pay, even though they have insurance. People have also been known to lose jobs, and some relationships are even affected. For the drunk driver and their family, there will also be mounting legal fees. The driver will most likely have their license taken away for a certain amount of time, if not permanently. Time in prison is also a likely outcome for the person who chooses to drive drunk. The young lady I spoke about in the beginning was found guilty of manslaughter and received an 18 year prison sentence. She is being held accountable for her actions, but that still does not bring back that young man or change the suffering both families have had to endure. I know she wishes she would have made a better choice that day. Given an opportunity to do it again, I’m sure she would make the right choice. If everyone would keep the slogan “Don’t Drink and Drive” to heart, then maybe there will soon come a time when drunk driving will no longer be the #1 cause of death on our roadways.