Yesterday images of student Tara Monroe, the college student riding a Barbie Jeep to class, went viral for all the wrong reasons. Is it adorable? Yes. Is she living all of our dream lives by riding that car? Hell yes. I don't mean to be a buzzkill here, and I salute anyone who doesn't let society dictate what they should "grow out of" (I type, as I look down at my Hello Kitty underwear in my largely pink bedroom). But while we are sharing all these tweets and reading all these articles that fist bump her over the internet, we are neglecting one huge, incredibly serious issue: she's driving this car because she got a DWI.
I understand that people make mistakes. Monroe is incredibly lucky that hers didn't result in any injuries, but the very real issue here is that countless people in the same situation have used that poor judgment to hurt not just themselves, but destroy the lives of other people.
“This is the best way I could have gotten my 15 minutes of fame,” Monroe said to SA.com. “Basically, it was the best decision I’ve made in college, yet…”
And in an unexpected way, she's right: because this has opened a platform for people to stop celebrating this, and talk about the very real issues at stake here. I'm sure Monroe is a great, well-intentioned person, but she is also a person who made a mistake. The 20-year-old refused a breathalyzer test on the way home from a Waka Flaka concert on March 4, immediately getting her license suspended and racking up a DWI. According to Hays County Jail records, she was then arrested on a $3,000 bond. She then Craigslist hunted to find the Barbie Jeep car that skyrocketed her into viral fame — but again, for all the wrong reasons.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10,076 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2013. And to make that statistic a little scarier, each year an estimated 4.86 million college students are believed to be driving under the influence, a huge portion of which are underage; one in five students openly admitted to driving under the influence in a study conducted in 2010. Monroe is just among the incredibly small number of college students who got caught.
I don't mean to demonize Monroe here. She is not the only one who has made this mistake, and just because she seems lax in the media coverage about it doesn't mean that she hasn't felt genuine remorse for what happened, or doesn't understand the seriousness of it. But it's up to the rest of us to remember that this isn't just a quirky story about a girl riding a Barbie car to class. This is a story about a girl facing a very real consequence for endangering herself and other people, a consequence that is, in the long term, nothing compared to what might have happened in the worst case scenario. Monroe is lucky to have been caught, and we are lucky to learn from her — if we stop celebrating this and start talking about it the right way.
Images: Amazon; OohHeyItsNicki/Twitter Video