Soooo… that title is a little judgmental. I guess I feel I’m entitled. Every month, numerous times, I put myself out there with our story, sharing Dustin’s life and death across three counties at DUI and MIP Victim Impact Panels, and High Risk Driver and Share the Road classes. This is a labor of love for my son: to keep his memory alive, to make his death meaningful, and to help others understand the importance of responsible driving so they don’t have to suffer the consequences we have. Or inflict them on others.At the end of every class, participants complete an evaluation so the organization can determine what is working and what isn’t. I anxiously and eagerly wait to see these evaluations myself. If I’m leaving a class and I’m handed the previous weeks’, I read them in the car. If they come in the mail, they’re out of the envelope before I’m in the house.
The major part of the form instructs the participants to rate various aspects of the class on a scale of 1 to 5 (videos, lecture, laws, etc). Then they are asked what impacted them most and what could be improved. These two questions are usually where I am mentioned… but not always. Not even most of the time, specifically. Often people will write “the speakers” or “cop talk” impacted them most, and for what could be improved it’s usually “more comfortable seats” or “more breaks.”
The vast majority of people seem to come to the classes expecting to be lectured and made to feel guilty and they leave saying they loved the classes, did not feel judged, and think everyone should be required to attend. Often they'll say they'd like to bring others to the class.
The following are actual comments. They have either buoyed me up and made me more determined or, alternatively, deflated me and made me question my effectiveness and whether I should continue. And… some just make me mad (you know, the ignorant ones).What did you find most effective or made the most impact in class?
“The stories of the survivors but Finney really broke my heart.”“The emotional loss of a child was the most powerful.”
“The presence of Dustin’s ashes was quite moving and his mother’s grief affected me, a father, greatly.”“Kristi was so brave and moving. Seeing the box of ashes was moving.”
“The stories were real, full of pain. Life is so fragile.”“Stories – the last especially. Her son is my age, we have a lot in common, and I remember when he was killed.”
“Dustin’s mom. She touched my heart and brought the realities truly to my attention.”“A kid under 21 was drinking and hit a guy riding a bike and the guy died. It’s sad.”
“A mother who lost a child, and is able to forgive this person for what they did.”
“Kristi seemed like everyone’s kind of mom.”(There are many, many other comments about other speakers, including but not limited to Jim – an energetic and entertaining but effective trauma nurse who facilitates, Tyler Presnell – a young man severely injured in a speed-related crash who is now a paid motivational speaker about traumatic brain injury and “respecting the journey” when driving and in life in general, Joan – the victim of a hit-and-run drunk driver who now lives with severe traumatic brain injury and has started a non-profit agency regarding TBI, and Judges Silver and Larsen – mediators of the VIP and Share the Road classes respectively).
What suggestions do you have to improve the course?“Victim panel wasn’t as relevant considering it was a homicide.”
“Don’t show a pic of someone’s dead son. I appreciated the story but not the pic.”“…Not so good part: the picture of the dead little boy was a bit too much. There is likely a better picture that can prove the point and not show a dead child.”
“Not have the class at all.”And my all time most memorable:
“Disliked story of the dead son. It was overcriminalization of the already convicted.” (Huh?)Interestingly enough, the criticisms are all almost exclusively from the Share the Road class, which is for those people with relatively minor tickets. Because of the feedback, I did remove the picture of Dustin in his coffin from that presentation. It remains for the other classes, though, because the consequences of driving drunk, drugged, and/or recklessly, are not gentle, are not pretty, are not comfortable.
Our family was not given the option to make it less "graphic." I refuse to soften it up for the drivers endangering everyone on the road (including themselves).