Jim Rockwell has a rather simple formula for leading a responsible life:
“Good Priorities + Self-Control = A Responsible Lifestyle".
Jim got a second chance at life; he made a miraculous recovery following an auto accident that left him with permanent disabilities. Teenage drunk driving accidents are reported, daily, around the country. Parents, teachers, law enforcement officials and safety advocates try to send danger messages and safety warnings as often as possible. Some kids will listen, some will not; very few, however, can totally tune out Jim Rockwell. Mr. Rockwell says:
“Some need to see the consequences of someone real, not hear about tragedies they can only imagine. Reality is, for some, the only learning tool left short of a fatal accident.”
Jim’s is the story of a 16-year-old who had everything going for him. He did well in school; he was an athlete and a musician. However, everything changed in one moment on the evening of February 17, 1984. He and two friends had skipped school to drink and party. They began partying early in the day, driving from place to place, including a stop at school; after all, they couldn’t miss "pizza day".
Five times that day, Jim got behind the wheel, after he had been drinking. Luck was on his side until about 10:30, that evening. On his way home, Rockwell narrowly missed a head-on collision with another vehicle. While he swerved and missed the vehicle, he could not avoid (slow reactions?) hitting a telephone pole. Jim was not wearing a seat belt; he was thrown through the windshield and onto the pavement. His car started sliding down an embankment; while Jim lay helpless on the pavement, the vehicle landed on his head. His head was partially crushed and he suffered spinal cord injuries. When paramedics arrived, they thought he was dead. Doctors thought he would never survive. Jim spent six weeks in a coma and seven years in physical therapy before he could walk and talk again. His two passengers were also injured, but made full recoveries. Jim’s parents spent over $300,000 in medical expenses, rehabilitation and physical therapy costs, car repairs, repairs to the telephone pole, as well as legal settlement contributions for his two passengers.
This teenager (and many like him) thought he was indestructible; in order to have "fun", you must drink, right? Or, maybe, abuse some other substance(s), right? Rules don’t apply to teenagers, do they? Jim even avoided the ‘three strike’ rule; he managed to avoid consequences on four separate occasions, that evening. Bad decisions would not catch up with him! Unfortunately, Jim had to learn, the hard way, about good priorities and self control. He now lives with permanent brain damage; the right side of his face is paralyzed. He can no longer drive. He walks with a limp, has difficulty maintaining his balance, is deaf in one ear, his right eye only opens halfway, and has no peripheral vision
After his long recovery, Jim did graduate from high school, but struggling to cope with his disabilities, he left college after one semester. He has used his life-changing experience to try, as best he can, to prevent others from sharing it. He began the Rockwell Project, a speaking program dedicated to "educating teenagers about what happens when you drink and drive". He travels across the country speaking to hundreds of intermediate and high school students to spread his message. He shares his experience and stresses the importance of family guidance, responsibility, and lifestyle choices. He is making a difference. Here is some of what he says in his presentation:
“I used to have my priorities set. My family, school, religion always came ahead of everything. Then those priorities flip-flopped. I put friends and beers ahead of them. Now look where I am.” He says his drinking problem was easy to hide because he came from a religious family, was an outstanding athlete, and a good student. No one suspected he had a problem. “I had a 3.5 GPA, was on the student government, played varsity football and soccer, and was a popular kid. I was just like any of you. If you make the wrong decision, you can end up like me or worse.”
Mr. Rockwell’s message is timely and important; millions of high schoolers will graduate in a few short weeks. Jim’s message to teens: You are not invincible! What happened to Jim can happen to anyone. "It won’t happen to me" turns into "how can this have happened to me?". Alcohol-related auto accidents are the number one killers of teenagers. It can happen to you. Say it, out loud: "It can happen to me". Teenagers who drink and drive face the real risk of living a life like Jim’s or worse.
Lawsuit Financial is a pro-justice lawsuit funding company; we provide financial assistance to accident victims who, through no fault of their own, are injured, disabled, and waiting for litigation to conclude. We feel that the best way to prevent an injury lawsuit, is to prevent an injury from occurring, in the first instance. Thus, we will continue to educate the public about driving dangers, and, in this case, teenagers on the dangers of drunk driving. We encourage our readers to view the Rockwell Project website. Share it with your children and your schools. Show them Jim’s website pictures. Better yet, invite him to speak in your community. The message is powerful; the advice is priceless.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.