• Loren Draper

Reckless Driving Can Leave Emotional Scars

Updated: Jun 29

by Loren Draper

Reckless driving, whether under the influence or just being unsafe, can impact the lives of many beyond the driver.

Every day over 3,000 people lose their life to a fatal car crash. While driving is the most common form of transportation, it is not always safe. Making the choice to devote your undivided attention to the road, safely making it from point A to B, does not just impact your life.

When I was only 18, I lost my first friend to drinking and driving. I could not put into words the amount of sorrow I felt when I heard the news. The phone rang loudly at 6:03 a.m. on Saturday Feb. 19, 2017 immediately waking me up. The name on the phone said Maddie Landry and I got that gut feeling that something was wrong.

“Loren, something happened,” she said.

After what felt like a century of silence, I could hear her sobbing over the phone trying to make out the words to tell me that we had just lost our kindest friend.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Landry said. “Why him? Why him? Why him?”

My whole world went numb. I did not understand how the kindest soul could be taken away from this world and how we were supposed to go on. I was overwhelmed with guilt, wondering if there was something I could have done to prevent losing my friend. To this day, this question still haunts me.

The night of our friends’ wreck, I was invited to a party. At the time, I was working a full-time job at a law firm, and I had just left work. I was not old enough to buy alcohol, and I did not want to drive to the party, so I declined the invitation. Little did I know, this could have been an opportunity to see my friend for the last time.

It was an extremely foggy night and the party was right off the levee in Batchelor, Louisiana. The driving conditions were not good for anyone, sober or not. The road is very curvy and is lined by the levee. It is hard enough to see around corners in sunny, clear conditions.

Around 2 a.m., the party was winding down, and Karlie Akin was offered a ride. She declined and stayed at the party.

Three young men entered a Chevrolet pick-up truck, but only two made it home.

“I really wish I would have stopped them,” Akin said. “We were so used to our friends driving home a little buzzed, I never thought it would end this way.”

They were only going about a mile down the road, when they missed the curve and hit the levee head on.

Nothing could ever prepare me or my friends for the pain we faced. We were all too young to be burying our friend for a silly mistake.

It has taken many years, therapy sessions and prayers for me to come to terms with the tragic loss of such a close friend. As soon as I thought I was finally healing, I received another devastating call. Yet again, the call came from my friend, Maddie.

When I picked up the phone on May 7, 2020, I did not know what to expect. She and I had fallen out of touch during a couple years of college, and I assumed that she just wanted to catch up. This conversation started out very different than the last.

"Are you sitting down?” she said.

I thought that she was getting ready to tell me something funny. I indeed was not sitting down, and I was not ready for what came next. She informed me that my high school boyfriend had been in a head-on collision, and that he did not make it out alive.

Once again, that overwhelmingly numb feeling took over my body. I had prayed that I would never have to feel this way again. But here I was, collapsed in the driveway, drowning in the pain of the terrible news. All because of another silly mistake.

It was very common for the boys in New Roads, Louisiana to play a silly game of chicken when they drove by each other. They would drive slightly over the center line to see which one of them would get back in their lane first. Unfortunately, the road was far too narrow for them to both get back in their own lanes and this innocent game turned fatal.

Finding out what happened to someone who was so close to me for over three years ripped my heart to pieces. We had fallen out of touch after breaking up, and I could not even remember the last time I saw him or what our last words were. The local Catholic Church did not allow an in-person funeral because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, we sat in our cars across from the church, and listened to the burial service over the radio. The loud sobbing in my car drowned out the voice of the priest. No one in attendance was allowed to see him, hug each other or give our condolences to the family. The nature of the funeral deeply scarred me, leaving me with no closure.

When my friends chose to drink a few beers and drive or play a road game on the way home, they did not take into consideration the long-term consequences that everyone else could face. Everyone misses these two boys deeply every day, and wonder if something could have been different.

I personally struggle with severe anxiety because of these experiences. Every time someone that I love and care about gets into a vehicle, I worry constantly for their safety. No amount of medicine or prayers can take that worry away. I have, however, found peace in the hope that others will learn from my friends’ mistakes. It can not only save your own life, but also the lives of those around you.

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