Letter: We should do everything we can to stop drunk drivers

The Detroit News

Jan. 6, 2019, was the worst day of my life. On that day I lost my family. My sister Rima, brother-in-law Issam and two nieces and a nephew were driving home from vacation, when a drunk driver hit their SUV head on, killing everyone. Five incredible people; an entire family; gone in an instant.

The driver had nearly four times the legal blood-alcohol limit, yet he still could start the engine and drive. That drunk driver bears responsibility for our traumatic loss. However, we now know that vehicle technology that would have stopped him from driving drunk — and saved my family — exists.

Sisters Rana Abbas Taylor, left,  and Rima Abbas.

So, why aren’t alcohol-detection and driver-monitoring systems standard on every car? More than 10,000 U.S. deaths are a result of drunk driving, annually. With this technology, we could save that many lives every year.

While that may seem like an abstract number, for me, it’s personal. I will never see my family again because today’s cars still allow a drunk person to get behind the wheel and drive.

Rima was 38. She was my only sibling and best friend. We were only 11 months apart; more like twins. Ironically, her life’s commitment was to saving lives. She was a physician who always dreamed of being a doctor. Rima was a natural-born healer. How many more patients could have been healed if she were still here?

Issam was 42. He was a lawyer who entered the profession because he believed in justice. He believed that the responsibility to uphold what is right is all of ours. How many more people could have been helped if he were still with us?

As a Michigan resident, who grew up in the backyard of the auto industry, I’d like to know that my family’s life — and the lives of countless others — matters enough to make the changes needed to eliminate drunk driving.

I invite the auto industry to join my family, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and Mothers Against Drunk Driving to support ground-breaking legislation that the Congresswoman is reintroducing to put advanced technology in all vehicles to stop those intoxicated from operating them. We also need Michigan Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow — and all legislators who care about this issue — to stand with us and support this legislation.

I am grateful for Congresswoman Dingell’s leadership. She has never wavered from her support of my family. Within days of the crash, she paid tribute to them in Congress and introduced legislation in their names that she will soon reintroduce. We are on the precipice of revolutionizing auto safety. 

It’s simple. This technology saves lives, and it’s available. The auto industry has made huge strides in building safer cars. They are leaders in advanced driving technology innovations. Now, they can enhance this technology and make cars even safer. What happened to my family was not an isolated incident. Righting this wrong shouldn’t be difficult.

My family should not have died. If national policymakers and the auto industry can get technology into every vehicle that prevents drunk driving, we can ensure that others don’t experience the horror that we did.

Rana Abbas Taylor, sister of Rima Abbas