Drunken Driving Accident Changes Student's Life

Accidents happen to the best of us, but it is when those accidents hurt or kill someone we love that we start to realize it was a mistake that could have been prevented.

The life of Ryan Hilliard changed because of a dreadful accident that occurred January 12, 2003, when the life of his best friend, Matt, was taken away because of a drinking and driving accident.

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Hilliard was only 19 when he was ejected 60 feet from the car he was driving, and went into a coma with broken ribs and lacerations to his kidneys, spleen liver. He also suffered severe brain damage. Although he came out of the coma a month later, he had to go to rehabilitation for physical, occupational, cognitive and speech therapy.

"I had to learn everything over again." Hilliard said. Hilliard also had to be informed about his best friend Matt dying in the accident he caused The news devastated him and he felt responsible for his death.

"I exploded into tears, not knowing how to react...enraged, puzzled, or just think, 'why should I live anymore.' I pray every day for Matt's family," Hilliard said.

In December 2004, he was sentenced to serve one year at Orange County's Men's Correctional Facility for one year, on charges of vehicular manslaughter. At the facility, he was only allowed minimal visits from family and friends.

"Without the loving support of my true friends and family, life is meaningless," Hilliard said.

He doesn't know what would have happened to him if he didn't have his friends and family by his side every step of the way.

Hilliard, now 23, shares his story at different high schools and youth organizations to teach them about the dangers of driving under the influence.

Hilliard narrated his powerful presentation from a third person and uses attention grabbing videos and pictures. When he revealed that the battered boy in the pictures he was talking about the whole time is him, people are shocked.

"I know when I was in High School if a guy my parents' age would come talk to me about drinking and driving, I probably wouldn't listen as much as if a young person would, and since I'm still young I want to do it as much as I can because I can still relate to them," Hilliard said.

He remembers the first time he shared his story in current Faculty member, Charles Schilling's speech class and realized what an impact it had when people in his class began to cry.

That realization only made him want to go out and try to save a life or two by speaking to the people more likely to go out and drink and drive.

He hopes to get the message across to young teenagers before it's too late, and hopes that his presentations will make a difference in someone's life. Hilliard stresses to the students that "parents would rather have to pick you up than cry over your dead body in a coffin."

Hilliard is a College student striving to get his life back on track, and, with his ambition and motivation in life, he will be attending San Diego State University and majoring in business and getting a minor in communications.

His life continues with the remorseful memory of that dreadful night that changed his life forever. However, Ryan Hilliard's determination is now invincible. His history only pushes him to strive forward, rather than holding him back. He will be speaking next at Orange Luthern High school.

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Posted in Community groups Post Date 02/10/2017