Last updated: September 25, 2023
It sounds like a really dark Dr. Seuss book, but this was real life.
80 miles West of San Antonio, On March 29, 2017, the last thing members of the First Baptist New Braunfels senior choir expected to run into on their way home from a retreat, was a 20 year old driver under the influence of mind-altering substances.
Video footage captured throughout the ordeal showed Mr. Jack D. Young driving recklessly for several minutes before the event. He was seen swerving onto the shoulder 37 times, crossing over the double yellow lines 19 times, and even drove onto the wrong side of the road several times, before fatefully crashing head-on with the choir bus, leaving all 12 members and the bus driver dead.
Preliminary reports showed that authorities found marijuana joints, marijuana roaches, drug paraphernalia, over-the-counter meds, and prescription pills in Mr. Young’s vehicle at the scene of the crash. Jack had told authorities that he had picked up three pharmaceutical prescriptions, and was on his way back to the house he lived in with his dad, before crashing into the bus.
After being taken to the hospital, Mr. Young was given a drug screening that determined marijuana was in his system along with Ambien, Lexapro, and Clonazepam, all prescription medications to treat sleeping problems, depression, and a sedative that is designed to treat seizures and panic disorders.
Jack Young told authorities that he had taken double the prescribed dose before getting into his vehicle for the journey. He also admitted to texting while driving before the accident, which may have led to him driving on the wrong side of the road.
The 20 year old pleaded no contest to the 14 counts of felony acts, including 1 count of intoxication assault, and 13 counts of intoxication manslaughter. He would face up to 270 years in prison with his bail being set at $380,000.
Studies have determined that marijuana, specifically THC blood concentration levels, have a direct relationship to driving impairment. Use of this drug has been proven to impair judgement, reduce motor coordination, and slow down reaction times.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) stated that marijuana is the drug most often found in the blood of drivers who were involved in motor vehicle crashes, including crashes that led to the death of individuals. The NIH study also claimed that marijuana has been found to increase the chances of someone being in a fatal vehicle crash by nearly two-fold, over those who weren’t under the influence.
There are many factors that go into fatal car crashes. Studies have determined that driver’s with higher levels of THC in their blood have a three to seven times greater chance of being responsible for a motor vehicle accident. But when determining fault of vehicle crashes involving people with marijuana in their systems is not always black and white.
There are over 15 different drugs that make up the benzodiazepines class, which is prescribed for depression, and is the most commonly prescribed antidepressant in the country. Specifically designed to induce relief of anxiety, relaxation of muscles, and to help reduce seizures, it’s strictly stated to avoid the operation of motor vehicles while under the influence of this prescription medication.
As a central nervous system depressant, It works by raising the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the brain, working to calm and eventually sedate a person. Some of the effects of a low to moderate dose of a benzodiazepine such as Clonazepam are impaired motor coordination, drowsiness, impaired thinking, and altered vision. Effects of a higher dose of such a drug include slowed reflexes, extreme drowsiness, and euphoria.
Considered a schedule IV controlled substance, this prescription medication is highly abused and highly addictive. Often times, abusers will take these drugs alongside other pharmaceuticals, and/or even alcohol. Discovered back in the 1930s, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that they realized how addictive this drug was. By that time it had already become the most widely prescribed medication in the country.
Lessons to be learned
Driving while under the influence of any mind-altering substance is a proven risk. But mixing substances together not only puts someone’s own life in danger but the lives of every single person they come across as well.
What happened to the First Baptist New Braunfels congregation was a disaster. Not only did all 13 people in the bus die from the head on collision but the assailant, who was a mentally ill 20 year old, survived and now faces the rest of his life behind bars.
The level of irresponsibility and complete disregard on behalf of Mr. Young led him to ruin his life, and the lives of several others, in a single instance. Nobody is immune to the ramifications of poor decisions, and with the increasing rate for which people continue to use and abuse drugs and alcohol, will most likely result in the increase of events such as this. The opiate crisis and marijuana legalization sweeping the nation will only multiply this problem.
We now live in a society where there’s a pill to take for every problem in our lives, which has created a generational culture of young minds who self-medicate their problems away. This often leads people towards dependence, tolerance, addiction, and more increasingly, tragedy.
The only way to get out ahead of this epidemic is to change the way we treat pain, whether that be psychological, emotional, or physical ailments. where we promote a path of actually dealing with our issues, safely, naturally, and not just medicate them away.