Our view: Addressing a deadly dilemma | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Addressing a deadly dilemma

According to traffic safety statistics released by the Colorado State Patrol, as of March 31, troopers had investigated 114 crashes that involved fatalities or injuries specifically linked to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a 6.5-percent increase over 2016 numbers for the same time period.

At issue

Leadership Steamboat's 2017 class is undertaking a project to underscore the devastating toll of driving while intoxicated

Our view

Drunken driving exacts a horrifying human toll, and we commend Steamboat's future leaders for tackling a project that aspires to reduce that toll

Think about that for a moment: 114 fatal or injurious DUI crashes in the first three months of 2017 alone.

This is only one among myriad heartbreaking statistics that reinforce something most of us already knew: Driving under the influence is a problem across the state of Colorado, and, indeed, across the entire nation.

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That's why we were so encouraged to learn about Leadership Steamboat's 2017 class project, which is an attempt to raise awareness of the gut-wrenching toll levied upon ordinary people by impaired drivers and, perhaps, give drivers one more thing to think about before they get behind the wheel after having had one too many.

The project, conceived by the 23 participants in this year's leadership training class, would require those convicted of driving under the influence to attend a 90-minute meeting at which survivors would recount how a drunken driver changed their lives forever.

One such meeting has already been held. In it, Steamboat resident Elaine Houck shared the story of how her daughter, Megan Ritter, and Ritter’s boyfriend, Brian Houle, were killed by a drunken driver Nov. 21, 2012, just outside Kremmling on U.S. Highway 40.

David “DJ” Torroni Jr., 21 at the time, was sentenced to five years in prison for killing the couple and seriously injuring their friend, Todd Craft. The trio was traveling to Steamboat to spend Thanksgiving with Houck and her husband, Jim.

Torroni — a promising young snowboarder and Olympic hopeful — was on his way to Summit County after snowboarding on opening day at Steamboat Ski Area.

Houck described the immediate aftermath in heartbreaking detail.

“No parent should ever hear that knock on the front door and see an officer and a police chaplain on the front porch to deliver the news that their child will not be arriving the next day for Thanksgiving,” she said. “Knowing that she will never walk through the door is sickening.”

The Leadership class hopes Houck's story — only one among scores of others — will cause at least some to think twice before driving while intoxicated or impaired.

We hope so, too. Statistics can be compelling, but numbers on a page pale in comparison to the agony-laced words of real people with real stories and the faces attached to those lives that have been extinguished and those families that have been devastated because of a single, disastrously poor decision.

The class worked closely with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to develop the program, which has also won the support of the District Attorney's Office, judges, the probation office and defense attorneys.

To their support, we add our own, and we commend Steamboat's future leaders for their willingness to take on such a tough, but vitally important, issue.

We understand that the use of alcohol — and to an increasing degree in our state, marijuana — is a social norm, and we don't disparage those who choose to partake. But there are numerous alternatives to driving while intoxicated.

Designate a driver, take the city's free bus, call a taxi or an Uber or stay where you are.

In years past, Steamboat even boasted a service known as Tipsy Taxi, operated by the Steamboat Springs Restaurant and Bar Association in partnership with Alpine Taxi, in which servers and bartenders would arrange free taxi rides for impaired patrons and passengers who could not get home any other way.

Perhaps as part of their project, the class could look into reviving or expanding this program.

The Leadership Steamboat class, which hopes to raise $2,500 to support its project through the next 10 years, has planned a fundraiser called Miscellaneous Antiques Dying To Be Discovered — inspired by the television series "Antiques Roadshow” — from 1 to 4 p.m. May 20 at The Chief Theater. The cost is $10, and we encourage the public to support this important effort by attending.

"If it (the Leadership project) stops one person from getting into the car after they've had too much (it will be worth it)," said Jim Moylan, a longtime local attorney and member of the 2017 Leadership Steamboat class.

We couldn't agree more.

At issue

Leadership Steamboat’s 2017 class is undertaking a project to underscore the devastating toll of driving while intoxicated

Our view

Drunken driving exacts a horrifying human toll, and we commend Steamboat’s future leaders for tackling a project that aspires to reduce that toll