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Buckingham asks students to think about their actions

April 5, 2012
By David Swartz - Managing Editor , Estherville Daily News

Former Washington state trooper Michael Buckingham uses stories, dice and the power of his scars to discourage dangerous driving.

On Thursday, his question to students is would the event so the last 36 hours sink into the students and affect their decisions in the future.

"Nothing kills young teens faster than an automobile," he said. "Forty percent of those accidents involve blood and alcohol."

Buckingham selected a mother in the audience and discussed all the facets of the birth of a child. He discussed with her directly how it was for him as a father-holding his wife's hand, giving her ice chips, helping her breathe.

"I know what it's like to have a baby!" he declared.

Then recanted, "No I don't.

"Even when you see your classmates give you this message, it doesn't reach," he said comparing the experiences.

"If we really thought we could drink and drive and something bad would happen to us, we wouldn't do it," he said. "We always think it will be somebody else."

Buckingham then addressed Estherville police chief Eric Milburn and Captain Brent Shatto and asked if their officers are allowed to have just one beer while on duty.

Milburn responded in the negative because it's policy.

When quizzed further why, Milburn said because the public wouldn't believe the police are doing their job.

Meanwhile, limit in Iowa is .08.

"Why do we have a standard for professionals and not put the same standard on someone who gets behind the wheel of a car?" he said.

Buckingham cited both a British study where drivers were simply asked to drive straight between a set of cones which represented a stretch of road.

The drivers did it perfectly. Then they were asked to pick one of three tables-one with shot glasses, another with glasses of wine and another with beer.

After just one drink-in which their alcohol limit was between .015 and .02, many of the drivers hit the traffic cones.

"The Americans later did a study and had the same results," he noted.

Buckingham said a lot of people get away with drinking and driving and that enforces the idea of "responsible drinking and driving." When in truth, they're just lucky.

He said some countries don't believe in "responsible drinking and driving."

Buckingham told his story how his life changed 30 years ago when he collided with a young drunken driver he'd been trying to stop. Buckingham's cruiser caught fire, and he was burned over 90 percent of his body. He lost his ears, hair and fingers. His skin is a quilt of grafts and seams.

Two other people in the crash, each in separate vehicles, both suffered physical injuries that essentially were healed within six months.

However they both have the memories of that night in 1981.

Meanwhile, Buckingham said he doesn't remember anything from 35 minutes before the crash until eight weeks after it.

Buckingham was asked if before the crash he had ever driven drunk.

"When I was a freshman in college, I joined a fraternity," he said. "That should answer your question."

He also was asked how his life had changed.

"Physically, it's obvious," he said. "But I've been on disability for 30 years."



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