09/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

If You Give a Mother a Margarita

How Could She?
As the terror of the deadly accident on the Taconic Parkway haunts us all, we wonder how Diane Schuler, the 36-year-old woman who drove on the wrong side of the road, had the audacity to get behind the wheel of her car in the first place. She was drunk, she was high and her van was filled with five young children. It is tragic for her, for the seven others who died with her (four little girls, including her 2-year old daughter, three nieces and the three men in the oncoming vehicle she struck head on) and for the family-members left behind to live with the nightmare.

Chances are we will never know why
Diane Schuler acted so irresponsibly.

But consider this. How many of us have behaved similarly -- not taking our drinking
seriously enough before we get behind the wheel of a car?

Am I MADD (mother and driving drunk)?

I am aware of friends and family members who might have thought twice and asked someone who was sober to take the wheel. They didn't. I didn't insist they do so. I should have. There was a time while eating dinner at a Mexican restaurant, just four miles from my home; I drank a margarita. Husband was away, children were with me. I drove home, kids in tow, up our curvy canyon road. Was I legally drunk? Maybe not, but given that I even considered such a thing, I probably should have called a friend or a taxi. I took my precious babies lives in my hands and may have put others at risk. I should have been the adult; I should have known better.

We should all know better, yet sometimes we make childish decisions. Ones that seem small initially, but could then lead to larger than life results.

Reports of the Taconic story tell of Diane Schuler's call to her brother, Warren Hance, shortly before the crash. He apparently encouraged his sister to pull over and wait while he went to find her. She didn't wait. Why?

Sometimes doing the right thing isn't easy.

As a mom, the best I can do is to role-model and encourage my kids to make wise decisions. More than anything, I hope my children will be able to ask for help as needed. Asking for assistance is hardly a sign of weakness; sometimes it's a symbol of strength. These are words I should have thought of as I got behind the wheel after that margarita, with my kids strapped into the backseat. My decision was immature, one I won't ever make again (and haven't since) and one I hope my children will never make. If they find themselves in a sensitive situation, I hope that they, drivers or passengers, will be able to pass the keys on to a sober licensed driver. Or call a cab. Or call me.


Diane Schuler's story will remind every adult that there are moments of irresponsibility. The thing is that for mothers, like Diane Schuler, our lives are not our own. We have others to think of, to look out for. Woefully, in Schuler's case and for those that lived and died with her, she called for help but not soon enough.