Drinking And Driving And Dying

drinkingProfessional athletes do not cause more DUI fatalities than other Americans—they just make more headlines. But with so many resources in place for athletes to avoid driving drunk and numerous high-profile tragedies in recent years, senior writer Thomas Lake wonders in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED why athletes today simply don’t know better?

Lake takes readers through a timeline of the most high profile drinking and driving related accidents involving professional athletes, including many that included fatalities like last year’s DUI related accident involving Josh Brent of the Dallas Cowboys that killed his teammate and friend Jerry Brown.

Lake reports that years before the tragic accident, while playing at Illinois, Brown and Brent both ran into trouble by driving without valid licenses and even worse—Brent was arrested for DUI in February 2009. He was kicked off the Illinois team and spent two months in prison. After his release, Brent attended a court-ordered victim-impact panel where he learned about horrific accidents related to drunk driving.

Lake then chronicles the night that never should have been.  After a night of partying on December 8, 2012, just five miles from the apartment that Brent and Brown shared, Lake writes: “Brent had a choice to make…He can call a confidential safe-ride service administered by the NFL Players Association. He can call one of two limousine services affiliated with the Cowboys. He can call a member of the Cowboys’ staff whose job it is to be available all day and all night to help the players however he can. Josh Brent does none of those things (PAGE 61).” Brown had similar choices to make other than getting in as a passenger. The result: A terrible car accident that left Brown dead (Brent survived with minimal injuries). According to a police report, Brent’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.189, more than twice the legal threshold of intoxication.

Lake notes the 2012 USA Today analysis that found NFL players are arrested on drunken-driving charges less often per capita than members of the general population. Yet, he says “What distinguishes the sports figures is their financial ability to hire drivers. And now, with Safe Ride solutions, they have fewer excuses to drive drunk than they ever had before.” (PAGE 59)


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