Fargo man sentenced to 60 days in jail following drunk driving accident

This week another news story popped up in my news headline: “Man sentenced in deadly Fargo crash”; another drunk driving accident. A man drove home from the bar drunk, and his friend in the passenger seat died. 

This story is one of many in the area and the state. I know of the drinking culture in the state from personal experience. Having lived in several other states before living here, I had a perspective that allowed me to see and compare the way kids talked about alcohol in other states to how it is spoken about here. 

I know underage drinking and drunk driving are a problem here. I am not a party kid, but I got invited to and knew of kids partying and drinking in high school. I have even been offered to drink with older people on several occasions. 

My dad has always had a pretty strict curfew since I could drive, especially in high school. Even as an adult, he asks that I be home before midnight (before people start leaving the bars) and since I live with them throughout college, I honor that. And he hates when I am out driving on New Years. 

It took me a long time to understand why he did this. I thought for a long time that he was afraid of me getting in an accident, not because I was drinking, but because people die all the time because drunk drivers hit them. 

And let’s be honest, we all know that people at NDSU drink, duh. And I don’t have an issue with drinking as long as you’re doing it safely and don’t harm anyone. 

I am taking issue with the drinking culture in North Dakota overall. North Dakota is ranked No. 4 in the states with the worst DUI problem. Many refer to it as the “Drunkest State,” and when I ask my peers about what to do around here, they tell me there is nothing to do but drink. 

But there are consequences to drunk driving. Jail time, license suspension, community service and probation are possible consequences. But I think those all pale in comparison to the emotional tole these can take. 

Elijah Viestenz was sentenced this week for the accident that killed his passengers. He said in court, “I believe I deserve whatever punishment I get for the crash that I created,” he said. “I caused the death of one of my best friends, and I’ll have to live with that mistake for the rest of my life.”

He was 19 at the time and had just left the Cactus Juice Saloon. 

The jail time will pass relatively quickly for him. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and 1,000 hours of customer service. What he will have to live with is the victim’s statement of his best friend’s mom for the rest of his life. Even though his record will be sealed and there is hope for redemption, he will likely never be the same after this accident. 

So, to my peers, please be so careful. Get a Lyft or an Uber. Don’t risk it. The roads are already so dangerous this time of year. So be wise. Make the smart choice. 

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