Alisa McMorris, mother of Andrew McMorris, hold a pictures of...

Alisa McMorris, mother of Andrew McMorris, hold a pictures of her son outside First District Court in Central Islip on April 2, 2019. Andrew McMorris was killed by a drunken driver in Manorville.  Credit: James Carbone

On Sept. 30, 2018, I dropped off my 12-year-old son, Andrew, and husband, John, for a hike with his Boy Scouts troop in Manorville. Before I left, I asked Andrew, "Should I go? You OK?" He gave me a reassuring wave. Little did I know, as I reluctantly drove away, my son was not going to be OK.

Less than two hours later, a drunken driver plowed into a group of the Boy Scouts as they hiked along the shoulder of David Terry Road. The driver hit five boys, leaving a trail of agonizing screams and life-threatening injuries. My son Andrew’s injuries were horrific. That drunken driver severed my son’s spinal cord, broke his legs, caused massive brain damage, and left his body a bloodied mess. Andrew didn’t die right away. He lingered late into the night after the crash.

In the early morning hours of Oct. 1, 2018, I sat with my family in the pediatric intensive care unit holding my son’s hand. As the minutes went on, Andrew’s body grew cold. I stared at the heart monitor, watched the steady beat slow and knew he was leaving us. I leaned forward and whispered into his ear: "Sweet boy, go to the light. Find the warmth and go be with God." I heard the heart monitor beep become a steady flatline tone. They turned off the ventilator and at 4:07 a.m. Andrew was pronounced dead.

A drunken driver senselessly took my son’s life. Andrew was ripped from my family, his friends, teachers and Boy Scouts. This pain continues to impact our community daily and so many people struggle in ways they never did before.

Arresting and jailing drunken drivers rarely keeps them from driving drunk again. Mothers Against Drunk Driving has spent 40 years educating people and advocating for tougher driving-under-the-influence laws. Their efforts alongside others have helped reduce drunken driving deaths. But more than 10,000 people in the United States still die each year because of drunken driving. That is equivalent to one 737 airliner crashing each week without any survivors. We need to do better.

And the technology that can help us do better already exists. Driver monitoring systems can detect signs of distracted, impaired or fatigued driving, and alcohol-detection systems use sensors to determine whether a driver is under the influence and then prevent the vehicle from moving.

It is time that we get this technology into every vehicle on the road as standard equipment, just like airbags and seat belts. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study last year determined that more than 9,400 lives could be saved every year as a result.

Congress has the authority to mandate use of this life-saving technology. Last year, the House passed a well-reasoned technology mandate bill, but a Senate version, the RIDE (Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone) Act, was still pending in committee with bipartisan support when the 116th Congress ended.

I ask Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to support reintroduction and passage of this legislation. Schumer has been a serious supporter of drunken driving-prevention technology, steering federal funds toward its development. The time to get those systems into vehicles is overdue. Together we can harness technology to prevent countless families from irreparable devastation.

Please, Congress: Get this done now.

Alisa McMorris lives in Shoreham-Wading River.