An open letter to a drunk driver

By Char Avrunin | Sep 02, 2014

You! That’s right, you! Because you just had to get in your car and try to drive after having had WAY too much to drink, you almost killed two beloved members of my family. Your irresponsibility came dangerously close to murdering two innocent, wonderful people.  I fight the anger, looking for forgiveness. I try to understand.

Let’s put you in my sister’s place, shall we?  It’s late Saturday night. You’ve just finished babysitting two demanding toddlers for your son and daughter-in law. It’s a long drive home, but your husband’s a good driver and you trust he’ll get you both home safely. You’re tired, there’s easy going conversation, you try to pay attention, but keep nodding off.

All of a sudden, you’re rudely awakened by a sea of air bags enveloping you. You feel extreme pain and can’t breathe. You feel someone (your husband) unbuckle your seat belt. That helps a little, but you’re still gasping for air. The pain! There’s so much pain! It’s in your chest. “Am I dying?” you think. Someone gets you out of the car.

You know there are people around, talking. There are lights, too, but the only thing you’re conscious of is the excruciating pain and desperate gasps for air. Are you dying?  You’re in an ambulance, sirens are going. A man is trying to treat and comfort you. “Am I dying?” you ask. You don’t want to die. You have three grown children, three little grandsons, a man who loves you, a sister who is close as a twin, a brother-in-law who adores you, a big extended family and a thriving business that all need you.  After many tests, you’re released from the hospital; diagnosis: broken sternum. Your husband is more fortunate, many bumps and bruises, a foot that’s enormously swollen and extremely painful, but no broken bones.

You’ll both live, albeit both of you will have much pain and you’ll have to use an apparatus to control your breathing so you won’t get pneumonia. It’s going to be a long recovery, but you will live. Thank God, He’s not ready for you yet.

Could you put yourself in my sister’s place? Did you even try? Or are you just eager to get this over with and get on with your life? Does the fact that you almost killed two people mean anything to you?

Because all of you live in Florida, if this was your first offense, you’ll spend 6-9 months in jail, be fined $500-2,000, have your license suspended 180 days to a year and be required to have an Interlock Ignition Device (IID) installed on you car.* (This device works similar to a breathalyzer and prevents the car from starting if the driver registers a preset blood alcohol level).

If this event had happened in North Carolina, you would have been found guilty of a DWI, with five levels of penalties: the least being 24 hours in jail, a $200 fine, license suspended 60 days to one year, with no IID requirement.** Not much for what a victim’s family could reasonably consider attempted murder, is it?

How much to drink is too much? If you consider that by North Carolina law, one drink is considered 12 full ounces of beer, 5 full ounces of wine or 1.5 full ounces shot of hard liquor, a person weighing 120 pounds is considered legally drunk after three drinks (blood alcohol content of .081).

A person weighing 200 pounds is considered legally drunk after 5 drinks (blood alcohol content of .080). How much does it take for a person to get a DWI in North Carolina by age? Under 21 carries a zero tolerance, 21 or older is .08 and for commercial drivers, it’s .04 blood alcohol content. ***

Am I a Puritan who has never had a drink? No. Have I ever driven when I’ve had too much to drink and shouldn’t? Yes. Am I judging you? No. Am I telling you not to drink? No. I’m just struggling with how my sister and brother-in-law came so close to dying because you didn’t use good judgment before getting into your car.  I’m hoping, no, I’m praying that God will have someone read this letter who will change their driving habits and save a life. Please, everyone, let’s be responsible.


*Source:, DUI Laws by State, IID -

**Source:, DUI Laws by State

***Source:, Blood Alcohol Level Chart


Char Avrunin is a Waynesville artist.