Our View: Drunk driving is not a joke

The devastating loss of a young child caused by alleged impaired driving is a stark reminder that we cannot stress enough the importance of sober driving.

Four-year-old Marco Shemwell of Winchester died Monday at UK Healthcare’s Kentucky Children’s Hospital from injuries caused when he was struck by a car Saturday afternoon on Cooper Drive in Lexington.

According to police, the driver was 18-year-old Jacob Heil, a student at UK, who was driving east on Cooper Drive when he veered off the road and struck the young boy.

Heil allegedly later told police he had been drinking at a tailgating event prior to the accident.

He has been charged with driving under the influence, and while he is innocent until proven guilty, more charges are expected in the case.

It is illegal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to drive with a BAC of .08 or higher. Court documents also indicated Heil had a blood-alcohol level of 0.051. Because he is younger than 21, the legal threshold in Kentucky is 0.02.

Drunk driving is a deadly epidemic that takes the lives of more than 10,000 people each year, on average. It’s a problem that should be taken seriously.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, alcohol consumption impairs your thinking, reasoning and muscle coordination. Even if a driver is under the legal limit, they are impaired while under the influence.

With even a .02 BAC, there is a decline in visual functions and the ability to multitask. At .05 — as in this case — a driver would experience reduced coordination, reduced ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering and slower response to emergency situations.

All too often people do not take the repeated messages of caution seriously enough.

But it’s about a lot more than swerving through lanes of traffic. Drinking and driving can be fatal to the perpetrator and other innocent travelers on the road.

A young boy’s life was cut tragically short and a family has been altered forever because of an incredibly irresponsible decision.

Our hearts go out to the local family who has lost a little boy at a such a young age. Any loss of this sort is devastating, to say the least, because it is completely preventable.

The key to prevention is education and responsible decision making.

Use every opportunity you can to discuss the dangers of drunk driving — especially with young people, but also with adults who have been known to make risky driving decisions in the past.

Universities should make it mandatory that all fraternities, sororities and university experience classes attend sessions explaining the dangers and the consequences.

Explain the severity of the issue. Share stories like this one, which are proof terrible things can happen because of impaired driving.