Taylor Berhow grew up in Mandan, ND, just like any other kid, playing soccer, lettering in swim team and hanging out with friends. He earned good grades and had a close-knit family. But for Taylor, a series of poor, yet seemingly small decisions starting in middle school all added up to him hitting rock bottom on October 29, 2011. That was the night Taylor killed three of his best friends.
Alcohol began showing up in Taylor’s life around 10th grade at the occasional party. Slowly the occasional party turned into frequent parties, which led to Taylor quitting soccer and the swim team, not being able to attend a national marketing competition, and was at risk of not graduating from high school. As Taylor went from job to job, partying remained the constant, along with driving impaired.
When Taylor was 21 years old, a tragic event occurred that would make you think he’d change his ways. Taylor decided to go over to a friend’s house who was having a party. As the night came to an end, one of his friends decided they were going to attempt to drive home after drinking. Even though Taylor was intoxicated as well, he knew it was a bad idea. He grabbed his friend’s keys and tried to prevent him from driving; however, his friend obtained the keys to his vehicle and drove off. Taylor got in his own vehicle to drive after him, but hit a curb causing his tire to go flat and off his friend drove down the road. That friend never made it home, as he ended up rolling his vehicle numerous times and was ejected and died.
It would be easy to think that experience would be the wakeup call Taylor needed to make healthier decisions. But, life isn’t always easy. Unable to process his grief, Taylor slipped even further, drinking more and caring less about driving impaired. By now, he had a job that paid well enough to feed his partying habit without any issue.
So, it was no surprise when Taylor and four friends headed out to a bar the weekend before Halloween to check out a costume contest and, mostly, to drink. Around 1 a.m., they left the bar and headed to a house party, literally almost flying down the highway. Not knowing it was Taylor’s vehicle, a woman (who ended up knowing one of Taylor’s passenger’s grandmother) saw how he was driving and thought to herself, “I hope nobody gets hurt.” Not even five minutes later, three of Taylor’s passengers were dead.
While there’s no happy ending, today Taylor is using his life as an example – a warning – for others. He is sentenced to prison for manslaughter and his earliest release date is August 2019.
Taylor completed treatment at a facility in town shortly after the crash and is in recovery for his alcohol addiction. He plans to further his education, so he can work as an addiction counselor when his sentence is complete.
During his recovery process, Taylor approached the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) stating that when he would be released, he’d like to share his story with others to prevent them from making decisions like he made. The DOCR said there was no reason to wait until he was released and that he could begin speaking to groups around the state, including high school students, about everything he’s facing and the decisions that led him to this point, hoping to deter as many people as possible from making the same bad choices he did. Taylor also agreed to work with the North Dakota Department of Transportation to create an impaired driving awareness campaign that debuted in December 2017.
“I felt like I was invincible,” said Taylor in a presentation to students. “Nothing had happened the first, tenth or 100th time I had driven drunk, so nothing was going to happen that night. But, it did. I made the decision to drive drunk and I killed three of my best friends. There’s no excuse to get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking. Give your keys to someone, call a cab, ask someone else to call you a cab. Whatever you do, don’t do it. Don’t drive drunk.”
Unfortunately, Taylor’s story doesn’t only include killing three people, seriously injuring another, landing himself in prison, and causing his family and his friends’ families immeasurable pain. There’s one more life dramatically impacted by his crash – his daughter’s. Taylor’s daughter was nearly 1-year-old when the crash happened and, subsequently, has only known her father in prison.
Whether you think you’re “fine” to drive, don’t want anyone else to drive your vehicle, only have a short distance to go, or have driven after drinking alcohol in the past with no issue, those aren’t excuses to jeopardize the lives of those in the vehicle with you. Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is 100% preventable and it’s our individual responsibility to ensure we make the right choices. Always choose to drive sober.
View the Moments of Impact video created by a variety of public and private partners to tell the story of what happened on Oct 29, 2011.