Op-Ed: Giovanni’s tragic story oft-repeated on Bay Area roads

$65K grant aims to reduce dangerous driving in Hercules
Photo by Burak K from Pexels

By Natasha Thomas, MNM

Giovanni’s Story

“Giovanni, my brother, was full of life. He had a huge personality that could light up any room. His favorite hobbies included playing video games and fishing. He loved hanging out with his friends. He loved animals and dreamt of becoming a veterinarian or a doctor specializing in Sports Medicine. Giovanni was a fantastic human being and the best little brother anyone could ask for.” 

Those were the words I, as Regional Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Northern California, heard from Giovanni’s sister. Her 19-year old brother was killed by a drunk driver on Highway 4 near Willow Pass Road in Contra Costa County. She told me the loss of her brother has forever shattered her family and their lives will never be the same. The conscious decision someone made that night to get behind the wheel while intoxicated was 100% preventable. That driver’s deadly choice is why her family has an empty chair at their dinner table during this holiday season and beyond.

With so many options such as rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft, there is no excuse to drive while impaired. Sadly, we at MADD still see the tragic results when people don’t plan ahead to get home safely.  Giovanni’s story is repeated again and again on our Bay Area roads.

Giovanni (Photo contributed)

Even in this pandemic when people aren’t driving as much, the impact is still felt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports an alarming increase in the presence of alcohol and other drugs during this Covid-19 pandemic and the California Highway Patrol has seen the number of DUI arrests and crashes with fatalities involving drugs and/or alcohol increase from the same time period last year. Such behaviors during the pandemic combined with already high rates of deadly crashes during the holidays are reasons to be more vigilant than ever this time of year.

In honor of Giovanni, and in the hopes of making the roads safer in Contra Costa County this holiday season, we at MADD urge everyone to plan ahead for a safe ride home and never get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Don’t let the poor decision of, “I’m still ok to drive,” be the reason your life and the lives of others are tragically changed forever.

You can help save lives and prevent injuries on our roadways by doing the following:

Plan ahead and designate a non-drinking sober driver BEFORE the celebration begins to ensure everyone arrives home safely. 

Don’t put your life and that of others in danger by having the person who’s “less drunk” be your driver.

Host parties responsibly by offering mocktails and other non-alcoholic beverages and by providing alternate transportation or accommodations for guests who have been drinking.

Please join us in creating a future of No More Victims® of impaired driving this holiday season and beyond.

Natasha Thomas, MNM, is the Regional Executive Director Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Northern California Region. [email protected] | madd.org/northern-california