Eight years ago, Brian Hershey found himself with a broken back and struggling through the final quarter of his senior year at Ohio State. Now, the alum and middle school teacher has published a book based on his experiences.
“Accidental Impact” focuses on the struggles to heal emotionally and physically after a drunken driving accident, from the crash scene to the courtroom. The protagonist is Kyle, a 17-year-old aiming to get into OSU. In reality, the true victim was the 22-year-old Hershey, who was preparing for graduate school at OSU in 2002.
“It was the last quarter of undergraduate,” Hershey said. “Several of us decided to go out. Upon leaving the establishment, even though I checked with the designated driver, the designated driver wasn’t right.”
Hershey said his friend ended up going more than 65 mph in a 25 mph zone when they crashed into a tree. Hershey ended up with a broken back and struggled to finish his undergraduate career, just like his protagonist.
“I was very excited about [grad school], I was anticipating getting more into my career,” he said. “When I had to take the time off … it was extremely frustrating. It wasn’t necessarily to get into Ohio State. It was more that I wanted to continue my career path.”
The book is entirely a work of fiction, although he said it is heavily influenced by his personal experience.
“I chose to write this as fiction instead of a memoir,” Hershey said. “Writing as fiction, teen fiction, allowed me to write about two social issues.”
Hershey said that drunken driving and underage drinking are often intertwined, yet completely different issues. He wanted his book to be an educational experience for as many people as possible.
“As a memoir it would’ve been written as a college experience,” he said. “Not everyone has a college experience. The majority of people experience high school.”
Much of Hershey’s novel takes place in the hospital. Hershey himself went through 14 months of rehabilitation, and he said this delayed him from graduate school for two years.
“It was my intention to show [the pain],” he said. “The reasoning behind that is when you address the social issue of drunk driving officially, you hear, ‘You will get arrested, you will go to jail.’ What happens to the victim?”
Hershey said he also wanted to show what happens when someone is injured.
There are several different accounts of what happened the day of the crash — police reports, the victim and the person driving the vehicle. In Hershey’s book, it even implies that his friend lied to him about what happened. Hershey’s point is that no one will ever know.
“That’s the reason I left [it open-ended] like that in the story,” Hershey said. “That portrays what happens … it’s frustrating to try and piece it all together. Instead of trying to force it in, leave the reader with the same unknown that I experience in real life.”
“Accidental Impact” was originally written to help Hershey get through his ordeal.
“I wasn’t looking at this process from a malicious point of view,” Hershey said. “[Those involved] know that it was more positive for me to get this out, that I wasn’t seeking retribution.”
To protect those who were involved, Hershey did not release the contact information of the driver.
Now that his novel is published, it is no longer a private reflection of a painful event but a cautionary tale for people of all ages.
“I look at it like this,” Hershey said. “Whether it’s high school, college or post-college, [the book is] about drunk driving and underage drinking and the impact that comes from making a bad decision. There are consequences and there is this impact. My message stays the same.”