Friday morning, Mission Collegiate High School hosted a press conference on drunk driving for senior and junior classes. Students heard from the Alton police department and Hidalgo District Attorney Toribio ‘Terry’ Palacios on the dangers and consequences of impaired driving.
The collaborative presentation began with Principal Ana Lisa Flores reaching out to the Alton PD to talk about awareness of the topic before students go on winter break.
“It’s all about the message, making the kids aware of the dangers of drinking and driving and the consequences that they might have,” said Flores. “You have choices. You have choices to make. Unfortunately, those choices you make can bring about circumstances that are beyond your control.”
Juniors and seniors gathered in a small crowd at the front of the school, a sign warning against intoxicated driving with a tow truck hauling a crashed vehicle — a visual that will stay at the front of the campus for the remainder of the year.
“Impaired driving is a growing epidemic that affects individuals, families, [and] communities nationwide,” Alton PD’s Lieutenant Ruben Lozano said. “…In a split second, bad decisions can have devastating consequences.”
According to statistics provided by Lt. Lozano, Hidalgo County ranked seventh statewide for DWI accidents. This year, Alton PD has seen 20 to 40 cases involving minors between 17-20 years old drinking and driving.
“Alcohol impairs judgment, reaction time, and coordination,” he said. “Even small amounts of alcohol can significantly impact one’s ability to drive safely. Victims can suffer severe injuries, disabilities, or even death.”
District Attorney Palacios put the impact into perspective for the youth who stood crowded at the front of the school.
“Driving while impaired is a community problem. And you are our community,” said Palacios, asking the youth to spread awareness through social media platforms. “Change the way we think.”
The DA further put consequences into perspective, such as charges, losing one’s license for six months, needing to make bond, hiring an attorney, paying fines and court fees, and going on probation — all of which happen daily.
“All that. And that’s just a simple DWI where you don’t hurt anybody, and you just get stopped by a police officer,” Palacios said.
Furthermore, the District Attorney laid out a scenario for the students.
“Imagine you run a stop sign and you kill somebody. Not only do you change that other person’s family’s life, their kids’ life — you change your own,” he said. “You change your family’s life. You’re going to prison…with people that belong in prison, with people that are criminals.”
Sebastian Ruiz Sorano, a Mission Collegiate High School senior, voiced his stance after the presentation.
“It made me take a step back. I drive to school every day. I drive to work every day. I’m always in the car,” he said, noting that he and others should drive defensively. “I’m always watchful of drunk drivers, but I never think that this could actually happen to me.”
Although Sorano is not of drinking age and does not drink himself, he said that when he does, he will be watchful. Furthermore, he spoke against the excuse of driving under the influence being okay for a one-time deal.
“It’s always fine [to drive drunk] until it isn’t,” he said. “It’s okay until one day, one of your friends, one of the kids you know, one of the kids you see every day at school, is just dead because they tried to drive home when they were drunk.”