Moment of Impact
In October 2011, with a blood alcohol level of .266, Taylor Berhow drove drunk with his friends in his SUV, was seen swerving by witnesses and eventually hitting a tree at 92+mph killing three of his friends; Charles Boehm, Trevor Erie and Eastman Nadeau. Jarrod Turner survived the Mandan accident with critical injuries.
Taylor Berhow doesn’t remember a thing.
Berhow visited Rugby High School last week in hopes that sharing his story will make someone else stop and think before getting behind the wheel while drinking, or getting in another car with a drinking driver. He said he used to enjoy high school sports and going to school but high school drinking changed everything. He no longer cared. He didn’t obey his parents, he quit setting goals, and all he thought about was drinking. He got a good job to support his growing habit.
Forty-three percent of fatal crashes in North Dakota are alcohol related. Bismarck is the number one location for fatality crashes in the nation. The night of October 29 wasn’t an exception for Taylor Berhow as he climbed behind the wheel with a blood alcohol level of .266, more than three times the legal limit of .08. All occupants of the vehicle were intoxicated. One man texted while they were in the car “I think I am going to die tonight.” They had been drinking for days, Berhow said, following the death of their friend Cody a week earlier. Cody drove drunk also, and rolled his car.
The students listened intently as Berhow showed a short film last week about the accident prepared by a college student entitled “Moment of Impact.” The students were very interested in asking questions at the end of the video and discussion.
Currently Berhow is serving a sentence in the North Dakota prison at Mandan. He is serving an 8 year sentence that originally was three 10 year sentences for Class B Felony Manslaughter, to be served consecutively. He is due to be released in fall 2019. Judge Sonna Anderson, originally threw out Berhow’s plea bargain of five years with five years probation, and the case went to trial. His 30 years of sentences was reduced to two years for each account of manslaughter, and they are being served consecutively.
“Prison is not easy. Fortunately I was moved to Mandan to a minimum security facility after about six years. This is the 42nd talk I have been allowed to speak at. I do not get paid for this. I cannot make money from anything related to the accident,” he said. “I make $1.62 an hour welding at the prison, and I am thankful for that.”
Berhow spoke of how he went to a treatment center before going to trial. He said he was certain that he could never live through prison life. He says he has not taken a drink since that night, and when asked if he would drink when he gets out of prison, he answered emphatically “No, I will not drink alcohol or use any kind of drugs. I intend to work at a treatment center and help others.”
For Rugby students, what did this mean? They certainly asked a lot of questions. They asked about his baby girl, now seven, whom he rarely sees. They asked about prison life, and he gave them some hard details. Several students commented about how alcohol has impacted their families in a negative light. Others asked about his future. One student asked, why didn’t he just walk down the podium, go through the curtain, and run away out the exit? Maybe it was the three armed police officers and correction officer from the prison standing nearby. But there was much more. “There is no where to run to,” he said.
One Rugby student said “That will never happen to me. My dad said he will always come get me, and I will call rather than get in a car drinking.”
In the hallway after the talk, a student commented that her parents always drove when they had been drinking. Nothing like this has ever happened to them. She didn’t think it would happen to them in Rugby.
No, it could never happen in Rugby.
Just don’t tell Taylor Berhow that.
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