Sobering Seminar Underscores Dangers of Drunk, Drugged Driving

Photo by Steve Ellmore

Miguel Vela III softly described the horrific car crash after a night of drinking 10 years ago that not only took his left arm, but the life of the other driver.

Vela’s gripping testimony underscored the consequences of drinking and driving during the Army Substance Abuse Program’s Drunk and Drugged Driving (3D) Prevention Seminar.

More than 75 service members attended the daylong event held Friday at McGill Training Center.

The event’s theme was: “Take a stand against impaired driving.”

Vela, a spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was one of several speakers at the seminar.

The event also featured presentations from the Maryland State Highway Administration Annapolis; a Fort Meade road safety briefing by the Directorate of Emergency Services; holiday safety tips by Kirk Fechter, director of the Installation Safety Office; and Samson Robinson, the Fort Meade Substance Abuse Program prevention coordinator.

In the event’s literature, organizers reminded service members that “buzzed” driving is drunk driving: “Don’t turn your holiday into a tragedy.”

During his presentation, Vela detailed the moments leading up to the crash.

After drinking at a nightclub in Waldorf in July 2003, the Upper Marlboro resident said he had three choices of roads to take home.

Rather than drive his usual route, “I was craving McDonald’s and took Rosaryville Road instead,” he recalled. “But the McDonald’s was closed, so I continued down that road.”

Vela recalled driving around the corner of the winding road before colliding head-on with another vehicle.

His presentation included stark police photos of the scene and of the smashed vehicle belonging to his victim.

As the audience viewed the images on a large screen, a stillness fell over the room.

“We have a guy here who took someone else’s life and lost an arm,” Fechter said after the event. “It makes you wonder why people still drink and drive.”

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