At age 22, Chris Sandy's life was changed forever after quickly drinking four drinks and then hopping in the driver seat with a friend to take off to another party, a scenario many high schoolers likely know all too well.
But what most of them don't realize is the potential cost, beyond even the fines and fees associated with a drunk driving charge. That's what the UR Choice/UR Destiny Teen Maze is all about. And the reality, made real by Sandy's story as part of this year's event, brought some of the audience of Heritage High School students to tears.
The program was put on by the Catoosa Family Collaborative, Catoosa Alcohol Prevention Initiative and Gen Rx teams as well as many more volunteers. The drug and alcohol prevention programs were presented to Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties students as well as Chickamauga City School students.
"The choice I made cost the life of two people," Sandy said in regards to a crash that occurred April 11, 2000, and killed two elderly members of the King family. "There's nothing I can ever do to change it. That night I had my radio up and Jessie and I were driving 80 miles per hour. I decided to blow past a minivan. Then, I saw a left turn signal and a gold flash, a bam and everything went black. I ended up in the passenger side dashboard."
Sandy said his friend later told him that he cut the other car in half with his car and drug it many feet down the road.
"I'm responsible for killing someone's grandparents," said Sandy, who served 3,170 days in Georgia State Prison. "I was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide. I was sentenced to 13 years in prison. I had handcuffs and shackles on. I had to stand on a yellow line and strip down to get sprayed down and then redressed. People would yell and bang on lockers."
He was released in August 2009 at the age of 32. His father suffered a heart attack and passed away just before he was released from prison.
Sandy will be on probation until 2031. He must pay a fine and view the crash scene every April 11 and place a wreath on the King family crosses. He has not had a driver's license since 2000.
However, one good thing did come from his time in prison. Sandy met prison visitor Eric Krug, who is the victim of a drinking and driving accident. The accident also occurred April 11, but was a different crash scene.
Krug was once going to play professional baseball as the star player for his local college. Now he tells people through assistive talking devices that he does not have a social life.
Eric visited Sandy in prison often as part of the Enduring Project.
"Eric's sister put him in a taxi cab," said Sandy, who is now married to Krug's sister. "Eric's roommate Tim asked him to come with him instead. Eric's girlfriend [the driver] passed out and the car slammed into trees on the college campus just 300 yards from the dormitory. Eric ended up with an injured arm and a traumatic brain injury."
In spite of Krug's problems, Sandy said he never gets frustrated and works really hard.
Sandy closed by telling the students that he hopes they realize from his message that their actions do affect their future. To further illustrate that fact, they then moved on to a crash scene outside where students acted out a drinking and driving accident involving a fatality.