DAMASCUS, Md. (WUSA)--It's graduation week at a lot of local high schools and that's often followed up by the tradition known as "beach week." Teenagers flock to the beach for the sun, fun and in many cases, alcohol. One young man wants to warn teenagers not to make the fatal mistakes that he did.
Dan McCoy graduated from Magruder High School and ended up in jail for one of his decisions. He says he probably drove drunk about 100 times without getting caught, until the night his luck ran out.
"I've been to jail, I've been suicidal, I've been kicked out of the Marine Corps, I've lost my license," said Dan, talking to teenagers about the darkest moments of his 26 years.
"I could see the insides of her neck," he said. Dan forces himself to remember the details of the crash he caused, by driving drunk. "A 17 year-old girl's head going through your windshield, coming back through, and her neck being split open at a 45 degree angle."
As Dan told Damascus High School students, he was 19 when his life unraveled. His victim, just 17.
"Every time she would take a breath, I could hear her gurgling on her own blood," he said.
"I started shaking. I was a mess," said Sandy McCoy, Dan's mother, recalling being awakened by a phone call at 3 am.
"He said I've been in a horrific, horrific accident and I need you to come quick," he said.
Added Dan, "I think about it every day. I think about her every day. I think about her family every day."
His parents scrambled to the scene and found their son on a stretcher.
"The first we saw him, he pulled the covers over his head. And I said, Danny! And he said Mom, you don't understand. You don't understand. I've killed somebody," she said.
In a health class at Damascus High School, Dan told the students, "If God came down to earth right now and said, 'Dan, do you want to trade places with her?' I'd do it in a heartbeat."
"And I don't think that will ever change," said Sandy, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.
In schools, students fire questions at Dan. He answers everything.
Asked a teenage boy, "You said you lost your license. Did you lose it for good?" No, he didn't.
Asked a girl, "Did you even think to tell the girl to put her seatbelt on?"
"No," said Dan. "You know why? Because I was drunk."
Another girl quietly wondered, "I'm not sure if this is too personal but did you go to her funeral?" He did not.
Dan's impact on teenagers is undeniable.
We asked how many of the teenagers would think twice in the future before drinking, and before drinking and driving. Every hand was raised.
"Seeing this regular guy," said a teenage girl of Dan, "You know it could happen to you, even though you don't think it will."
Another girl finished her sentence, "And you have to live with that for the rest of your life."
"So use me as an example," urged Dan. "I look at it as I destroyed a whole other community's lives in every way possible."
Dan and his mother spoke with us to alert other families to something they may not consider beyond the physical and emotional toll of a deadly DUI. That is the financial cost.
"I would say at least $75,000," estimated Sandy. "He had an ankle tracking device when he was on home confinement. The cost of the car. He lost his car. It was totaled."
"Probation fees, alcohol assessment fees, house arrest fees," added Dan. "MVA costs, interlock in my car cost. Lawyer fees, court cost. Restitution to the family."
And, Sandy quit her job so she could help her son through a devastating process.
Dan leaves teens with a simple message: call their parents before they drive after drinking, or get in the car with someone who has.
He asks the students, "What's the worst thing your parents are gonna do? Ground you? Take your keys away?"
To illustrate just how difficult it is to get people to absorb his potentially lifesaving message, Dan says his best friend who was with him the night of that terrible crash, got a DUI less than a month later. Three of their mutual friends were in the car.
Written by Andrea McCarren
9NEWS NOW & WUSA9.COM