Teenage DUI death shows importance of responsibility

December 7, 2010 — by Michael Lee
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Jordan West memorial

Santa Teresa High junior Jordan West told her father Michael on Nov. 20 that she was going to see a movie that night. Neither of them thought anything of it. It was just another of Jordan’s excursions with her friends.

Early the next morning, one of Jordan’s friends woke Michael West and delivered a grave message: His daughter was dead, the victim of a drunken driving accident.

After she left her house the previous night, Jordan got in a Toyota with four of her friends, all of whom were under the influence of alcohol and/or marijuana. The driver, according to CHP Officer Jaime Rios, had drunk three shots of brandy. On Highway 101, another car collided into the Toyota, propelling it off the road and into a tree. The CHP pronounced Jordan dead at the scene, and her friends were all hospitalized for various injuries.

In San Jose—just 10 miles away from Saratoga—alcohol and drug use have taken the future of a relatively young high schooler. Her death shows that the Silicon Valley is not the safe sanctuary most people believe it is.

The role of alcohol and other substances, however, does not negate the fault of the boys and girls involved in the accident. They ignored warnings against driving under the influence and paid a cruel price.

Now, the issue of the driver’s punishment remains for the District Attorney’s Office. Jordan’s parents have requested mercy for the driver, saying that Jordan would have wanted her friend to have a good life. The driver, they said, will be punished by the burden of her guilt. However, greater penalties need to be implemented to highlight the consequences drunk driving.

All people make mistakes, but a line is crossed when one’s personal errors hurt others. The five teenagers were wrong not only for endangering themselves, but also for carelessly risking the lives of the other drivers on the road.

Unfortunately, many teens are unaware of the consequences of their decisions. The “it won’t happen to me” mindset plagues teens, making them more prone to drunk driving and substance abuse, among other risks. Tragedies such as Jordan’s death remind people that the dangerous side of driving is more tangible than they thought. Younger drivers need to be wary before eagerly grabbing their car keys.

At a mournful vigil for her daughter, Rosie Nevinger, Jordan’s mother, noticed that several minors were under the influence of alcohol. Shocked, she gave the large crowd of teenagers a few emotional words of wisdom.

“Do not let Jordan Michelle West’s name go in vain,” Nevinger said. “Call your best friend’s mom. Call your godparent. Call somebody. Anybody will pick you up. You don’t have to die.”

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