WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Slow down, buckle up and drive sober this weekend.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates more than 10,000 people in the United States are killed by drunk and drugged drivers each year. They hope to prevent even one death this weekend.
Federal numbers show there was a nine percent increase in DUI deaths between 2019 and 2020. To fight those numbers, 30 state troopers and other law enforcement officers across the state will be out watching for drunk drivers on Saturday.
“The last thing law enforcement wants to do is knock on somebody’s door in the middle of the night and tell them that their loved one has been killed, and they won’t be coming home.”
One Wichita family also wants to drive safe driving home after getting a call their loved one was hit by a drunk driver.
“I woke up in the hospital and probably became aware about four or five days later,” James Harstine said.
He said the day that changed his life started out normal–driving for Uber.
“I do it in the mornings when people are going to work. And then on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. I would be out before going out to go to the clubs,” James said.
Life came crashing down on him when he was hit by a drunk driver while sitting at a stoplight after dropping a passenger off.
“If she had still been in the car, they told us that she would have almost definitely been killed,” Bev Harstine, James’ wife, said. “There’s a woman out there somewhere who has no idea that she beat death by about five minutes.”
The driver hit him from behind. Bev said the driver was going 50 or 60 miles an hour.
James was in the hospital for two weeks after the accident. He now lives with a fused vertebra.
“Ongoing, I have experiences with a lot of pain, particularly down your legs and your feet, equilibrium problems. You fall down, and then just being able to concentrate and put sentences together and thinking processes have been impacted, too.”
After nearly a year of recovery, his family sees how valuable life really is.
“He’s a big part of our family and we thought that we are going to lose when they told us right away that it was a drunk driver that hit him,” Bev said.
James hopes this initiative will help drunk drivers understand that deaths and injuries are a reality of the choices made when driving impaired. He warns people it’s cheaper to pay for a ride than the damage that can be done.