Fraternity Members Learn Lessons from Drunk Driving Tragedy
By: Hayden King
Fraternity brothers of Julius Dozier have had plenty of time to reflect on how losing a close friend in a drunk driving accident impacted their college and current lives.
Ole Miss Alpha Phi Alpha member Julius Dozier and Adrian Cannon, an Alpha Phi Alpha member at Delta State, were killed in a drunk driving incident on May 24, 2008.The accident occurred while Dozier, Cannon, and two friends were driving to Tupelo, Miss. The driver of the second car, Carrie Nichols, was driving under the influence of alcohol when the two-vehicle accident occurred.
The members of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity lost a brother and a good friend. Many of Julius’ fraternity brothers experienced disbelief that their brother and friend had died.
“I sat there in the dark hoping that it was not Julius, maybe they have him confused with someone else,” said Kenny Rogers, adding that the time after the accident was a difficult one for the fraternity. “It was hard on the members of the chapter. It was a time of sadness, anger, and disbelief for us.”
After Julius died in the drunk driving accident, many of his fraternity brothers were forced to step back and assess their own lives.
“The accident made us pause and reconsider our actions,” said Norris “E.J.” Edney III.
Rogers said the accident really made him consider the consequences of drinking and driving.
“It caused me to reflect on my life and what I possibly could’ve done to someone and their family as well as my own family,” he said.
Parties, social events, and alcohol are often part of a college campus. This can be especially true in fraternities and sororities. Having such a tragic event that involved alcohol was a large shock to Julius’ fraternity brothers.
“We (fraternity members) realized we needed to manage risk more seriously,” said Edney.
While those close to Julius were affected by the tragedy, his friends and fraternity brothers tried to continue their social lives as they normally had.
“We still all had a good time, went out, had some drinks,” said Edney. “We just held each other more accountable.”
As a result of the consumption of alcohol on college campuses, the risk of college kids drinking and driving can be high. Rogers admitted that he had taken that risk himself.
“In my younger days I often drank and drove my car,” he said.
Alpha Phi Alpha is not the only Greek organization at Ole Miss to have lost fraternity brothers in a sudden, tragic accident.
Christopher Grimaud, a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and Kevin Eagan, a member of Alpha Tau Omega, died in a car accident on Highway 7 near the Ole Miss campus on November 9, 2013.
Phi Kappa Psi member Sandler Weinberg, a close friend of Eagan, said that accident really had an impact on the members of the fraternity.
“It (the accident) definitely changed some people,” said Weinberg. “It was a wake-up call that this could literally happen to anyone.”
Grimaud’s brother is also a member of Phi Kappa Psi.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1,800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries.
Drunk driving is not only a problem among college students, but is also a serious problem nationwide. The latest statistics from 2012 say that more than 10,000 people died in drunk driving crashes that year. That number accounts for 31 percent of all traffic deaths in 2012.
Even with all the statistics and stories, people still get behind the wheel intoxicated. Ole Miss student and Pi Kappa Alpha member Charles Ellzey feels that with the lack of public transportation, driving home is one of the only options.
“Cabs are expensive, Rebel Ride is no longer an option, public transportation in Oxford is terrible, and having fraternity pledges volunteer to be sober drivers is considered hazing,” said Ellzey.
After the accident involving Julius Dozier, Edney said he was more aware of his actions and those of his friends and sometimes had to remind them about what had happened.
“I’ve had to take keys away from friends before, even remind them of why it’s so serious,” said Edney.
Rogers, who is currently an advisor to members of the Alpha Phi Alpha chapter at Ole Miss, says he reminds current members of the dangers of drinking and driving.
“I tell them, ‘You guys don’t need to drink and drive,’” he said. “It will change your life in a matter in seconds.”