When out partying, we all think, “it won’t happen to me.” We are invincible college students floating within our own fermented bubbles.
But while it’s part of college culture to experiment with our freedoms and limitations, there are looming responsibilities that — no matter how hard we try to avoid them — should not be overlooked.
Last Friday night, less than three blocks away from his Thurber Lane home, Suleiman Hodali, 19, struck and killed bicyclist Benjamin Mora, 29, a UC Santa Cruz employee who had not yet spent two weeks on the job.
The driver’s blood alcohol level was about twice the legal limit for people over 21 when he and Mora — who was cycling without a helmet or a bike light — collided.
Hodali, a second-year Porter student, drifted his Toyota Tacoma toward the side of the road and threw the bicyclist into the bushes beside Sequoia Drive. Mora was pronounced dead at the scene.
Can you imagine having to experience the gut-wrenching rollercoaster of realizing you had committed manslaughter, then listening to the heartbroken family of the victim sob in the courtroom as you are given your sentence?
It all could have been avoided had Hodali simply called a cab or had a designated driver. Now he is in jail with a $100,000 bail, higher than the standard for similar crimes, with nothing to look forward to but a toilet/sink combination in a single prison cell.
The student and the bicyclist aren’t the only people involved. If the people who provided alcohol to the minor are identified, they too will face prosecution.
With four people having died in suspected DUI crashes in the first five months of this year, according to California Highway Patrol officer Grant Boles, there is a serious need for drunk driving reinforcement. It seems, however, that no matter how many programs we implement, these accidents will continue to take place.
What we need are alternatives to drunk driving, specifically targeted at students. The Night Core shuttle is a great idea if you plan to stay on campus, but that is often not the case, as campus parties are few and far between. For those students living on the hill, off-campus partying usually means having to plan a night around the Metro schedule, or paying more than you would prefer for a taxi.
In Davis, students can ride the Unitrans for a buck, and UCLA has an evening van service that is free of charge for students going to campus and surrounding residential areas. At Kansas State, there is an on-call safe ride program designed to offer students and their guests a safe alternative to drunken driving. UCSC needs a low-cost service that will bring students from off campus safely to their residences, or to their homes in town.
Unfortunately, drunk driving continues despite the enforcement that has taken place. If students and Santa Cruz residents alike are not taking the responsibility to protect themselves and those around them, something needs to be done.
The more accessible alternatives to driving drunk are, the more likely it is that students will take advantage of them.