Teens find out just how deadly and damaging drunk driving can be
OREGON CITY, Ore. - A meeting in Oregon City this week was designed to send a very clear message to teenagers before they make a fatal mistake, and some of those in the audience were reduced to tears by the time it was over.
It was all part of Oregon Impact, a program designed to cut down distracted and impaired driving. And those who spoke certainly made an impact by sharing in vivid detail some of the worst moments of their lives.
You can call it a type of shock therapy for young drivers who have made some poor decisions. The audience was not there by choice - they were all under 21 years old and had either been caught with alcohol or had been caught driving drunk.
Kristi Finney, who lost her son in 2011, has spoken to hundreds of teenagers at meetings like this. She wants them to know the impact of their decisions and she even brings her son's ashes with her to drive the point home. Her son, Dustin, was cycling when he was killed by a drunk driver.
"I think he would say 'go for it mom, what can I do anymore? If it's going to make a difference, use me,' " she said.
It wasn't just the family of the innocent victims who talked - Jeannette Robart lost her son after his friend's truck flipped along a Forest Service Road last March. The friend was driving drunk and now Robart lives every day with the sting of that fatal decision.
"Nick was an amazing kid," she said. "He was the light of my life and he was always there to make me smile."
"It doesn't matter if you are on a back road and it's just you and the car," she told the audience. "When you wreck that car and you die, you are free, but your family is left in hell."
You might be wondering whether these types of meetings are actually effective. Robart told us she has teenagers come up to her in tears thanking her for sharing. And she said they vow never to make those mistakes again.
Any parents who want a real hands-on example for their kids of what drinking and driving can do are welcome to attend.
Also, before you hand over the keys, you can sit down with your teen driver and have them sign a Vehicle Use Agreement.