At Wednesday night’s alcohol awareness forum, Montgomery County assistant state’s attorney Steve Chaikin cautioned members of the Wootton community about the risks of drinking and driving and urged parents to be more up front in talking to and educating their kids.
He also brought a surprise: an unannounced guest speaker from Wootton’s class of 2006 whom Chaikin had prosecuted in 2007 for vehicular manslaughter.
Sean Mayhew spent 22 months in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of vehicular manslaughter in an alcohol-related accident on Seven Locks Road. He was 19 at the time.
Now, Mayhew is sharing his story with the community, going to various Montgomery County high schools with Chaikin to let kids and parents alike know it could happen to anyone.
“[Sean] has incredible courage, not just strength for what he’s gone through,” but for speaking publicly about his past, Chaikin said.
A former lacrosse and hockey player, Mayhew said he started drinking around the eighth and ninth grades during a summer trip to the beach. Before his arrest, he said he had consumed 10 or more drinks on countless occasions and drove under the influence “multiple times, maybe even hundreds of times.”
Chaikin said he recently read a statistic that young people who have been arrested for driving under the influence had driven drunk an average of 80 times before the arresting incident.
“I always thought I was invincible, and I think that’s a lot of kids’ problem these days,” Mayhew, now 24, said. “They always think they’re invincible. They always think, ‘It won’t be me.’"
Now facing 6.5 years in prison if he violates his probation, Mayhew said he’s trying to put his life back together. He no longer drinks alcohol and is currently enrolled and taking classes at Montgomery College.
A similar situation could be prevented for a young person with more direct guidance from adults, Mayhew said, adding he wishes he had the courage at the time to simply call home and ask for a ride.
“It comes down to you talking to your kids and really drilling into their head that they’re the one who makes the decision [of whether to drink and drive] and ultimately if you decide to drive, the consequences are harsh. And man, are they harsh,” the former Wootton student said.
Although PTSA President Andrea Bernardo said she believes there haven’t been any recent alcohol-related incidents involving Wootton students, Bernardo said she hopes to bring Chaikin and Mayhew back to the Rockville school for a students-only presentation.
“The feedback has been amazing, and I’m really pleased,” she said. “I think the people that were here were really impressed, and I know that the kids who were here really had an eye opener.”