It’s been six months since the needless death of Newbury Park High School student Cody Murphy. Cody, a junior at Newbury Park High, died in April when the car he was driving flipped over on PCH, killing him instantly and injuring four other passengers — some of them severely. Police found evidence that alcohol was involved, and this was later confirmed by one of the passengers who escaped with minor injuries.
I didn’t know Cody personally, but being the father of a daughter who attends the same school and who is just one year younger than Cody was at the time of his death, this dubious anniversary affects me almost as much as the people who were in the young man’s life. While I can’t claim the same grief or pain that I’m sure still preoccupies the lives of those close to Cody, I feel it vicariously. The unbearable void caused by a loss like this is, I’m sure, overwhelming and the knowledge that young lives like these are snuffed out in the blink of an eye, due to unwise choices, concerns me and keeps my fatherly “spidey sense” constantly tingling. And these choices are not just the ones made by the driver of the vehicle, as Cody was that fateful night, but also by the passengers and friends.
After the accident was reported and the hurt was still being felt on the campus and within the community, I had a talk with my daughter about the importance of making the right decision when faced with a similar scenario. At the risk of sounding like just another parental pestering session, I made it clear to my daughter that if she ever found herself in a situation where her “ride home” from a concert or similar social event had been drinking or engaged in an activity that might have left him or her similarly impaired, to not hesitate to call home for a ride. “It’s so easy,” I told her, “to think, ‘It’s late, it’s a long drive, mom and dad are probably asleep, and so-and-so didn’t drink that much. I’m sure it’ll be fine.’” We, even as adults, tend to make these types of decisions from time to time. It seems to be the “easier way out” or “less inconvenient,” and it’s only after a tragic incident occurs based on that decision that we start to rethink, uselessly, how things could have been different “if we’d had just…”
I made it clear to my daughter that she can “inconvenience” us whenever she feels the need to. I’d rather lose sleep than lose her.
Besides the obvious discussions of making the right decisions when it comes to alcohol and drug use that every parent should have with their children, the less-obvious discussions about making the right decisions while sober should also be discussed. As already stated, there were other kids in the car with Cody Murphy on that night in April, and some of them suffered serious injury. Many other passengers — sober passengers — have been killed over the years while traveling in the same car as an impaired driver, when it would have been just as easy to “inconvenience” a parent or friend.
Don’t wait for a tragedy to occur. Have a sober conversation with your kids today.
Shawn McMaster is a Ventura County parent and a project developer for Straight Up.