When I was a teenager growing up in San Jose, my parents always warned me about driving at night on Highway 17. When they were teenagers growing up in Santa Clara in the 1960s, Highway 17 to Santa Cruz was known as Deadman’s Pass. The windy road over the mountain to the hippie beach town was unsafe. Add potentially drunk drivers who chugged too many beers during their beach bonfire and Highway 17 turned into a real death trap. I was told to never drive Highway 17 at night if I wanted to live to tell about it or keep my driver’s license.
After Tuesday night’s fatal car accident on Almaden Expressway, I wonder if I’ll be having the same threatening conversation with my own kids about a road that is within walking distance of our home.
Sadly, this isn’t the first fatal crash involving a teenager under the influence on Almaden Expressway. There have been two other occasions where Leland High School recent grads or current students have used extremely bad judgement that resulted in their car being a murder weapon.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to kill your friend because you were too confident that you could handle drinking and driving. I wish I could say that I have never and would never drive under the influence. But I could count on more than one hand the times that I’ve had a drink (even if it was just one) at dinner out with friends and proceeded to get behind the wheel. Absolutely stupid now that I think about it. I may not have been loaded or slurred my words or stumbled, unable to keep my feet planted under me. But I still had a drink. And I still drove. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to kill my friend or my husband or my kids because of that ridiculously stupid choice. Lucky for me, I don’t have to learn the hard way. Never again will I drink even a glass of wine and get behind the wheel to drive.
I have a running joke with my six year old son about telling his body to stop growing. Whenever he wakes up in the morning and comes to snuggle in our bed, I ask if he grew while he was sleeping. He always smiles and starts laughing as the tickling begins when I demand that he tell his body to stop growing and stay a little boy forever. My little boy forever. It’s only a matter of time before I get an eye roll from my boy who will refuse to acknowledge my existence let alone snuggle in my bed.
And it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be more worried about my son driving home on a street that we drive everyday…worrying that Almaden Expressway could be his last road travelled.
Photo credit: Mark Gomez of the Mercury News