Modesto Man Warns of Dangers of Drinking and Driving, Offers Free Rides on New Year’s

MODESTO -- For Brandon Johnson, celebrating New Year's hasn't been a top priority.

"The past four or five years I've slept through New Year's and I don't drink," Johnson said.

With drinking often a staple of the New Year's celebration, the California Highway Patrol has instituted a maximum enforcement period. It's been just a week since Officer Andrew Camilleri died when his patrol car was hit by a suspected drunken driver in the Bay Area. At his funeral in Stockton on Saturday, fellow officers said they hope his death opens eyes to the dangers of drinking and driving.

"Our hope is that this will be a wake up call ... If someone is going to celebrate with alcohol or other substances, we ask that they have a designated driver, we ask that they have a plan in place to either stay where they are at or get home safely, using Lyft, Uber, taxi cab, a friend, whoever they can, because the consequences of making a poor decision and not choosing a wise one could result in something like this, where so many people are affected," said John Fransen with the CHP.

Johnson knows those consequences all too well. He has multiple DUIs, with his most recent coming eight years ago.

"Just knowing that I could have killed somebody that night when I crashed, it was the final straw that broke the camel's back," he said.

Johnson said he just now is back on his feet from that accident, and to help others learn from his mistakes instead of going through it themselves, he's offering free rides to anyone who gives him a call Sunday night.

"I've been the designated driver for a couple years now. I don't even go to the bar now, I just wait for them to call me and I go pick them up. It feels good," Johnson said.

Finding good in helping others avoid something that nearly derailed his life is something he hopes to help others avoid living with for the rest of their lives.

"The self guilt of when you've done it is so much worse than any jail cell they can put you in," he said. "There is no confinement that can be as bad on yourself as your brain. You're always going to be your biggest critic. To get over that guilt of knowing I could have hurt and killed multiple people multiple times, I don't want anyone to have to live with that especially if they can do it by just a simple phone call instead of sitting in jail or in a hospital getting stitched up like I had to."

Johnson can be reached at (209) 416-9927.