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Officer teaches about dangers of drunk driving

Donald A. Promnitz/The Madera Tribune

California Highway Patrol Officer Josh McConnell talks about the dangers of driving drunk. McConnell, a 10-year veteran with the CHP, lost his father to a drunk driver at age 11.


A California Highway Patrolman in Madera mixed his personal experience with humor in order to educate students on the dangers of driving drunk.


At Madera South High School, CHP spokesman Josh McConnell gave three demonstrations to students on Friday.


In them, McConnell explained that an injury from drunk driving occurs once every two minutes on average, the results of which can easily be fatal.


“Just in 2015 alone, 10,265 people in our nation died in drunk-driving collisions,” McConnell said. “You know how many families, friends, lives that wrecked?”


McConnell, however, is aware not only from his 10 years of law enforcement, but from his own life experience, about the consequences, having lost his father to a drunk driver at age 11.


“(When) I go to see my grandfather, I look like my father, but he died, so it’s always an emotional roller coaster,” McConnell said. “You know, he looks at me, like ‘oh my gosh.’ All the memories, everything, floods back in and the pain never, ever goes away.”


Drunk driving also claimed the life of a friend of his in high school, an occurrence that the officer shared with the students.


“He rolled in … He was all drunk, and I saw that he was drunk,” said McConnell. “He said: ‘Hey, I’m going here,’ I said: ‘Hey, I’ll catch you over there later.’ I never saw him again.”


Another friend of McConnell’s, who was in the passenger seat of the vehicle, was also injured, and was left with permanent brain damage.


Following the lecture, McConnell took the students outside, having them ride a tricycle while wearing DUI goggles, which simulate the effects of alcohol on vision and response time. It was lighthearted end to a lesson in hard truths.


“Driving under the influence of alcohol is an extremely ridiculous, terrible choice,” McConnell said. “If you have done it, please don’t ever do it again. It’s only a matter of time before something horrific like this happens.”