• The Editor

From Discard to Discourse, Can We Save a Life?

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

By Jason B Hack, MD, FACEP

Fatal and non-fatal alcohol-related automobile crashes happen every day. I imagine you have a story about a ‘drunk driving’ incident—a near miss, family or friends who were hurt or killed. These are lives changed forever by an event that is completely avoidable.

For most of us, the most dangerous thing we do is get in a car and hurtle down roadways at 55 miles an hour.  We watch out for others and follow the rules of the road, trusting that others are reciprocating by watching out for us.  This is a safe and routine illusion of the modern Golden Rule. It is unbelievable to us when this is shattered by a crash. It is unimaginable to us when the crash results from an impaired driver.  Every aspect of my life compelled me to bring focus to these absolutely needless occurrences.  

As a father, husband, and friend, I know that through no fault of their own, statistics suggest that a loved one might be involved in an alcohol-related crash at any time. As a witness in my job as an Emergency physician, I see people who are involved in alcohol related car crashes almost every shift. These oblivious intoxicated drivers, who choose to drive after drinking, deny that they did wrong.  They slur, “I only had a couple of drinks” or “I was fine” or “I wasn’t going far”.  

I also care for their victims. People like us, minding their own business before catastrophe crossed the double yellow line, whose futures change irreparably because of another’s choice. People who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. I council the families and friends. Though physically unharmed, they are heartbroken, left to piece together lives in the aftermath. 

My urge to constructively channel these charged experiences confronted the reality of my limited artistic skill. I chose to photograph discarded mini liquor bottles (nips), on the roadways. These are small things, easily overlooked and ignored, but representative of a huge problem deserving of wide notice and outrage. I consider each of these discarded bottles, thrown out of car windows, tossed and forgotten.  Was it an attempt to hide evidence of a dangerous habit? Was it another selfish act? Was it their ignorance of the social contract to protect one another?

The bottles are photographed in high contrast black and white or muted colors, exactly where and how I found them. Like Weegee’s photographs at crime scenes, we know what happens next.  The bottles lay silent, their delicate forms irreparably altered by the interaction between vehicles and street—crushed and scraped, laying in the road, against a curb or on the median grass.  

Each image is titled with a euphemism for being intoxicated: Smashed, Trashed, Wasted, Wrecked.  These popular terms are used to describe people who are grossly intoxicated, but also used to describe destruction and violence.  

My goal in developing this artistic exhibit is to create and foster a gateway moment for people to recognize, interact, and communicate.  Art opens doors both within ourselves and between friends, family and strangers. If my pictures cause one person to choose to make the responsible decision to arrange safe transport home, it will be worth it.

Image Credit: Jason Hack, Oleander Photography

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