A Yuba City, California driver can expect to be charged in connection with a drunk driving accident in which two of his close friends were killed.
The accident that occurred on Highway 99 near Live Oak, California on November 16th, is just one more reminder of the needless risks we take with the lives of those closest to us when we drink and drive. The driver in this car crash, 20-year-old Abdul Umar Hay, was returning from an all-night party with his friend Rafael Courtland Walker and Matthew Stephen Fair. Initial reports say that Hay must have dozed off at the wheel, causing the car to zip though a stop sign. A short while later, it was broadsided by a Ford Explorer. The impact of the crash caused Hay’s car to be pushed over into a nearby orchard. Both Walker and Fair were declared dead at the scene of the car accident. Both were 20-years-old.
Hay was the only survivor, and was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. He can now expect to be charged with felony vehicular manslaughter and felony driving under the influence causing injury. He doesn’t have a previous criminal record, but could be looking at a minimum of 6 months in prison, if found guilty.
The reactions of Walker’s and Fair’s parents were a study in contrast. Fair’s father remains indignant at the thought of a six-month sentence for the man he holds responsible for killing his son, while Walker’s mother, who is a member of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), insists that prison time is not an appropriate sentence. Last Friday, the families of the two victims took part in a memorial service that celebrated their lives.
You have to understand Richard Fair’s anger. Matthew was his only son and whether the two victims in the car had also consumed alcohol or not, the fact is that only Hay was in charge of driving them home. At 20, Hay is looking at an irredeemable stain on his record. This young man has a lifetime ahead of him, and has voluntarily cast a pall over his ambitions and his future through his negligent actions. Hay will have to deal with a lifetime of guilt for the deaths of his two friends.
Underage drinking continues to be a problem, and is cited as a factor in too many California drunk driving accidents for us to take any debate on lowering the drinking age seriously, as proposed by many college deans. What’s needed to tackle the problem is not lowering the drinking age, and giving every 18-year-old in California carte blanche with alcohol, but a joint effort by parents, college administrators as well as the community. In Yuba City, for instance, many parents including Walker’s mother, Jean Hammonds, believes that the area just doesn’t offer enough recreation opportunities for the young to let off steam. The result is underage drinking binges like the one that took place here, and the tragic drunk driving accidents that result from these.