The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

October 21, 2013

OHS alumnus speaks against drinking and driving

OSKALOOSA — Oskaloosa High School alumnus Todd Rabideau told students Friday afternoon that an accident caused by drinking or texting is “100 percent avoidable” and that it depends on young people making good decisions.

Rabideau, who graduated from Oskaloosa High School in 1987, is a Christian speaker from Power Up Ministries in Branson, Mo. He gave a presentation to high school students about drinking and driving, and texting and driving at George Daily Auditorium. The presentation was part of Celebrate My Drive sponsored by Kelli Steil at State Farm Insurance. National Teen Driver Safety Week is Oct. 18 through 26.

“I’m not here to talk at you. I’m here to talk with you,” Rabideau told the audience that packed George Daily Auditorium.

Rabideau said the privilege to drive a car is “an awesome thing. … With that comes an awesome responsibility.”

Rabideau said statistics show teens are more likely than adults to get involved in an auto accident. Driving while impaired by either drinking or texting will make that more likely. While everyone knows that underage drinking is against the law, some will make the wrong decision and drive while they are impared, Ribideau said.

If you make one wrong decision, “it’s not just about you. You’re interconnected,” he said. “Your decisions affect everyone around you.”

Ribideau said he made that wrong decision.

“I started drinking at age 15,” he said. Ribideau said when he entered the U.S. Navy, he drank more.

“I didn’t want to quit and I didn’t,” he added.

In 1999, Ribideau was drinking and driving and was involved in a head-on collision in Missouri. Of the three kids in the other car, one did not survive the accident.

Ribideau also paid a heavy price for the accident.

“I have five plates and 32 screws in my head,” he said. Ribideau said he was in a coma for nine days and doctors did not belive he would survive.

“I did survive … only to go to prison for 12 years,” he said. It was a Level 5 prison in Missouri, “a horrible, stressful place to spend a decade,” he added.

If you get an OWI and someone dies, “you will go to prison,” he stressed.

Ribideau said God healed his mind and his body.

“I got spared for a second chance,” he added.

Ribideau asked the students for some alternatives to drinking and driving. They came up with several: Have a designated driver. Stay home. Call a taxi. Call your parents or stay where you are and take the consequences of being grounded.

Texting and driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. Statistics show that 46 percent of teens text and drive, Ribideau said. In fact, texting and driving makes an accident 23 times more likely, he added.

“You guys don’t have to follow the norm,” Ribideau said. He had the students say back to him, “I don’t have to be a statistic.”

“You guys can make a decision not to be a statistic,” Ribideau said.

Ribideau also asked students for options other than texting and driving. The students came up with these answers: Don’t text. Answer when you get home. Turn your phone off or put it on silent mode, and screen texts.

Ribideau advised students to set up an accountability system with their friends to help them not make bad decisions.

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