SOCASTEE, SC (WMBF) – An area man is sharing his story with high school students, hoping his loss will deter them from their own.
The springtime is the busiest time for the Safe Driving School, with more high school-aged students taking classes to get their licenses in time for prom, spring break, and summer.
According to the NHTSA, more than three people under the age of 21 die every day in alcohol impaired driving crashes. The CAST Coalition along with Shoreline Behavioral Health Services is determined to change that number, launching an initiative called Project Prom.
The project brings awareness of the dangers of underage drinking during prom season. For the first time, area students will hear from Chris Skinner.
"Please get that your life is a privilege, a blessing. And guess what? It matters. Your life matters," started Chris Skinner as he took the stage at Socastee High School.
It's a powerful message, given by a Myrtle Beach man with a powerful story.
"High risk behaviors, we can get totally numb to it and it just sneaks in," added Skinner.
As a college student, Chris Skinner used to party until dawn. He said he eventually left class to join the Army National Guard.
"It is because of the choices I made on this night. And this could be like any night for you, like prom or homecoming," he said as he motioned to a picture of him dressed up for a friend's wedding.
He described the night in detail to the high school students. He explained he got drunk and ended up fighting with his friend for taking his keys. With no regard to the consequences, he said he got into a car with a drunk driver.
Skinner recalled the driver saying 'it wasn't a big deal because they were only driving two miles down the street.'
"Anytime you are intoxicated it is a huge deal to get behind a two ton killing machine," said Skinner to the students.
He recalled the driver taking a turn too fast, which flipped the vehicle. Skinner said he was thrown from the car.
"I lay there like a fish out of water gasping for air," he said.
He remembers his friends in the other cars getting out of their vehicles and racing to the scene. However, they weren't there to help.
"For the first 20 minutes they spent getting the alcohol out of the car and taking it back to the house before they would call the ambulance," Skinner said.
The driver of the car escaped unharmed.
"He ran over to me and got down on one knee and looked at me and said 'don't die on me man.'"
For two weeks Chris Skinner was in a coma. When he woke up he realized he was paralyzed from the neck down.
"I can't feel anything. I can't feel my arms, my hands, my fingers," he told students.
Now, he is determined to keep teens from facing the same fate.
Chris Skinner became a motivational speaker, author, and counselor. More information can be found on his story by visiting ChrisSkinner.org.