In the early morning hours of September 16, 2001, Clint Haskins was driving on Highway 287 and veered into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Eight students, all members of the UW men's cross country track team, were killed in the resulting head-on collision south of Laramie. He was sentenced on eight counts of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide. The accident was the worst in Wyoming's history.
There was no trial, Clint pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 to 20 years in the maximum security prison in Rawlins. Since then he has become, as opportunities permit, a spokesperson for sobriety.
In a heavy, reflective way during an interview segment, he says that what he did was selfish and that if it weren't for him, those eight students would still be here.
One interviewed student said, "I don't want that to happen to my family."
Clint, speaking of the pain and loss the surviving families are still experiencing, later said, "I don't think that anyone should have to feel what those families feel…. This whole experience, I'm responsible for…" Clint is able to, in part; communicate with the public through In Reach/Out Reach - a program that allows youth to hear what inmates have to say.
Debbie McLeland is interviewed by the CBS team on the news segment. (She lost her son, Morgan, in the accident.) It's still a tragedy remembered in the family. "No one should have to die this way," she muses on-screen. The moderator adds that she has forgiven Clint and is working with him to promote his social sobriety campaign.
Craig Conrad is highlighted as a very charismatic and effective teacher who uses this incident to teach kids not to drink and drive. His approach is brutally honest and rather emotional. He is able to reach out to students and touch their better judgment.
At the end of the training, Mr. Conrad wraps up his work by encouraging kids to take a pledge to not drink and, especially, not to drink and drive. Many teachers realize that education can be dilute without some sort of student commitment behind it all.
It's not hard to see what drives teachers to address this sort of problem. According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) Trend Analysis Report, 29.7 percent of participating Wyoming middle school students acknowledge to having been in a car driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol. For high school students, 36.1 percent had at least one drink of alcohol on one or more of the past thirty days, and 25.1 percent have had five or more drinks in a row on one or more of the past thirty days.
I remember students years ago who insisted, "I can handle my alcohol." But pushing the envelope of what one can handle isn't the goal. The goal is to be wise enough to steer clear of heartbreaking potential catastrophe. If there was ever a poignant reminder of what bad choices can do to one's life; the story of Clint Haskins is it. I feel certain there are a number of lessons we can take home with us…