Monroe coroner’s experience colors drunk-driving view

By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal

Friends of Monroe County Coroner Alan Gurley have come to expect his annual New Year’s Eve Facebook status, a personal plea to drink responsibly while ringing in the new year.
After 21 years as coroner, he has seen the carnage of impaired driving first hand, and takes the matter not only seriously, but personally.
According to his Facebook status, the best thing that can happen to a drunken driver is to get into jail – or “Cecil’s Hotel,” as it has come to be known in reference to Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell – until he or she can sober up and make bond.
“If you are not caught by law enforcement, you may run over somebody and either kill yourself or kill some innocent person. … That might keep some person from having me knock on their door [on New Year’s] and telling them their loved one is dead,” his status reads. “Choices, choices. Life is full of choices.”
His sincerity on the subject stems from Gurley’s own experience with drunken driving from his childhood.
“When I was 12 years old, one night I was riding a motorcycle on a county road and a drunk driver turned across me,” Gurley said. “I hit him and was thrown 25 feet, crushed my pelvis. I spent almost a month in a wheelchair before I could take to crutches.”
In his time as coroner, he said he has seen a diminishing of impaired driving on New Year’s, due to an increase of officers on duty as well as more awareness of the holiday’s dangers. The holiday may be more safe, but Gurley said he sees a lot more drunken driving randomly throughout the week. Drivers take it too lightly when their drinking does not fall on a high-profile occasion.
“As coroner, I deal with the after effects of drunk driving. The highway patrol does a great job at keeping the roads safe, especially on New Year’s,” he said.
Recalling his own career in law enforcement, beginning in 1980 in the Aberdeen Police Department, Gurley said he remembers the satisfaction of catching drunken drivers and knowing he may have saved someone’s life.
“Have a great time,” his status said. “Just get somebody else to drive, even if you’re going to just drink two.”
riley.manning@journalinc.com