A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Message in a Bottle


Photo exhibit explores the ‘ripple effects’ of drinking and driving.

Jason Hack, MD, has witnessed firsthand the consequences of drunk driving since his medical student days. He recalls a shift in the emergency department like it was yesterday, when paramedics brought in a “clearly impaired driver” who had just collided head on with another car on the highway, killing nearly every member of a family.

Now a professor of emergency medicine and an emergency physician at Rhode Island Hospital, Hack says, “There’s rarely a shift in the emergency department where I’m not caring for either somebody who drank alcohol and was injured while impaired, or someone who was the victim of someone who was impaired.”

Hack spoke of these experiences in TV and radio spots for the Ripple Effect, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation’s campaign to raise awareness about the consequences of drinking and driving. The website and ads feature gut-wrenching images of car crashes and morgues. But Hack, who is also a photographer, found a subtler visual story to tell about drunk driving as he walked along in the roadways of Rhode Island with his camera.

“People had thrown their alcohol nip bottles onto the street,” he says. “It was very likely people were drinking these bottles as they were driving and tossing them out the window so they didn’t have open bottles if they got pulled over. And once you start to look for them … they’re everywhere.”

The “complete disregard” this litter demonstrates, Hack says, is twofold: for the people these drivers might harm with their vehicles, and for the neighborhoods they blight with their trash. As he amassed hundreds of photos of the discarded bottles in situ, he considered their potential to raise awareness: whereas pictures of wrecks might repel some viewers, pictures of nips might provoke some thought.

“It’s not such a far leap that those crushed bottles in the roadways could be people—and in a lot of ways, might be people, depending on what happened later,” Hack says.

An exhibition of Hack’s photos, Images in Impact, is on view at the Warren Alpert Medical School through January 31, 2019. Each stark image is accompanied by an eye-opening fact, like, “The average drunk driver has driven impaired more than 80 times before the first arrest.”

“I want people to make good decisions for themselves, their loved ones, and their community,” Hack says. “I want them to know that their momentary lapse of judgment … can change their life and the lives of innocent people who they may hurt forever.”

Images in Impact is on view at the Warren Alpert Medical School, 222 Richmond Street, Providence, from December 1 through January 31, 2019. The exhibit is open to the public Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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