The high-speed death of “Jackass” star Ryan Dunn on Monday is the latest harsh reminder of the deadly consequences of mixing alcohol and automobiles.
As the site of the crash that took the life of Dunn, 34, and his passenger, Zachary Hartwell , 30, transforms into a makeshift memorial and cautionary tale about the dangers of drinking and driving , experts told MTV News that these kinds of accidents are not unusual but totally preventable.
“In my experience, it’s quite a common thing,” said Jan Withers, president-elect of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), whose 15-year-old daughter was killed when the drunk driver of the car she was riding in lost control of the vehicle. “A person has had several drinks, their judgment becomes impaired and so do their inhibitions. Their reaction time is slowed down, and so they can’t react in time.”
Accident-reconstruction teams have estimated that at around 2:30 a.m. Monday, Dunn, who a preliminary toxicology report shows was intoxicated, was driving his 2007 Porsche 911 GT3 between 132 and 140 mph in a 55 mph zone. The Porsche collided with a guardrail and went soaring through about 40 yards of trees before hitting one and bursting into flames.
According to the Chester County coroner’s office, Dunn’s blood alcohol level was .196, more than twice the .08 legal limit in Pennsylvania. The report also says there were no “drugs of abuse” detected in Dunn’s system.
Dunn’s family and friends, including “Jackass” stars Bam Margera and Johnny Knoxville, attended a private memorial service on Wednesday. A public service is expected to be announced at a later date.
The most crucial advice MADD offers to drivers is that if you are going out and alcohol will be involved, decide before you leave the house how you are going to get home by either being sober yourself or having a sober driver. “Before you have a drink, know how you will get home safely,” Withers said, noting that 11,000 people a year are killed in drunk-driving crashes and that 350,000 people are injured every year as a result of drunk driving. In fact, she said, the grim truth is that one in three Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash in their lifetime.
The details of the Dunn crash — which was preceded by a celebration involving the “Jackass” star and his passenger — sounded sadly familiar to Withers. “It is [often] a situation where people go out and start celebrating and have a couple of drinks and think, ‘I’m fine.’ But in reality, people can’t decide whether they’re fine or not. Many people who are completely impaired think they are totally sober. They literally don’t know.”
Withers, who said her heart goes out to Dunn and Hartwell’s family and friends, added that it is up to all of us to make sure these accidents are avoided. “It’s your responsibility as their friend to make sure you take the keys away and find them a way home with a sober driver,” she said. “It’s absolutely essential that they don’t get behind the wheel.”
The coroner’s report lists blunt force trauma and thermal trauma as the official causes of death for Dunn and Iraq war vet Hartwell, who was credited as a production assistant on “Jackass Number Two” and was working with Dunn on his new G4 show “Proving Ground.”
Hours before the crash, Dunn tweeted a photo of himself, Hartwell and another man at Barnaby’s of America, a West Chester bar. Official said on Wednesday that Barnaby’s will not be charged in the case because Dunn did not “appear” intoxicated during the time he was served two beers and six shots by bar employees over four hours.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that Dunn received at least 23 driving-related citations in the past 13 years, 90 percent of which ended in guilty pleas, including 10 stops for speeding and careless driving and three more for driving with a suspended license. In 2005, he was arrested for drunken driving, but charges were dropped when he completed a probationary program; his license was suspended for more than a year, according to court records.
Share your memories of Ryan Dunn on our Facebook page or in the comments below.