LIHU’E — Brandon Silveria made a decision that changed his life forever.
“What was the big deal with having a couple drinks? Everyone else was doing it,” he said to about 300 students at Kaua’i High School Monday.
Silveria found out the hard way that drinking and driving do not mix.
Shortly before his high school prom in Los Gatos, Calif., he got into a near-fatal crash after drinking a couple beers at a high school party on a Saturday night.
“My car veered off the road and smashed full speed into a tree,” he said, of the 1987 crash.
Silveria fell asleep at the wheel and his car crossed the center line. He ended up in a coma for 2 months, and spent five years learning how to walk and talk again.
He was so badly injured that he has permanent brain damage, suffers from seizures, and has permanent and visible speech and walking difficulties.
He said that he made a stupid mistake, drinking then driving.
“What you become depends on the choices you make,” said Silveria. “When I was 17, I had a job and a girl-friend. Because of my crash, I lost both of them.”
Prom for the Red Raiders is scheduled for April 22 at the Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club. And with graduation right around the corner, Silveria hopes that teenagers will be safe and not drink and drive.
Silveria’s dad, Tony Silveria, pointed out that teenagers who drink and drive do not realize what that can do to families. He said that seven out of 10 families fall apart when something like this happens.
“It destroys families,” he said.
“They go out to a party on a Saturday night, and the last thing they think about is the possibility of never being with their family again,” said the elder Silveria.
He also pointed out that medical bills for Brandon Silveria amounted to about $3 million.
The two Silverias have taken their message against underage drinking and driving to more than 2 million teenagers across the country over the past 10 years.
The elder Silveria pointed out that, after one presentation, five girls approached his son.
“They were all crying, and one had a handful of money. They said, ‘Brandon, see this money? This is the money we gave to somebody to buy the alcohol for the prom. We just got it back. We promise you we are not going to drink,'” said Tony Silveria.
Prom and graduation season are critical times of the year for seniors, said the elder Silveria.
“We want the kids to come back for their five-, 10- and 15-year reunion,” he said.
After the presentation, senior Clesson Lee pointed out that he learned something after listening to Brandon Silveria’s story.
“Drinking and driving has bad consequences,” he said.
Junior Pono Matthews said that the presentation shows what could happen to someone if they get into an accident that involved drinking and driving.
“Don’t let them drink and drive, and don’t get into a car with a drunk driver,” he said.
Sophomore Michelle Kato pointed out that the presentation shows how Brandon Silveria’s life changed.
“It was good to see someone overcome hardships in life,” she said.
The Silverias also went to Waimea High School after making their presentation at Kaua’i High School.
The father-and-son duo are being sponsored to take their message of the dangers of underage drinking and driving to students across the state.
They are being supported by state Attorney General Mark Bennett, the Hawai’i Hotel and Lodging Association, and by The Century Council, a not-for-profit organization funded by distillers.
The council’s mission is to promote responsible drinking and discourage all forms of irresponsible consumption, through education, communications, research, law enforcement and other programs.
More information is available at www.centurycouncil.org.
- Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or ckaneshiro@kauaipubco. com.